Last year, $8 billion was set aside for high-speed rail lines in the US and then in December, Congress added another $2.5 billion to that total in hopes of spurring high-speed rail transportation. And money looks like it is already beginning to be distributed – the first lucky recipient? Florida. President Obama is set to travel to the sunshine state tomorrow to make the announcement awarding $2.5 billion for the first phase of their bullet train system from Orlando to Tampa that will eventually connect to Miami.
Florida has already acquired a dedicated right-of-way along the I-4 corridor where the rail line will go. This first phase of rail development will include stops at the Orlando Airport, in Orlando, at Disney, Lakeland and then Tampa. With speeds above 120 mph, which is certainly not as fast as bullet trains are running these days (China’s averages 217 mph), this will still be faster than driving by car. The 85 mile trip should take less than an hour, and will also provide better transportation for tourists trying to get to Disneyworld without having to rent a car.
Florida anticipates the first phase of their rail line will cost $3.5 billion, and they are currently raising money from private investors to cover the remaining billion after they receive the stimulus funding. Construction is set to be completed and trains running by 2014. And now, Obama needs to decide where the rest of the $8 billion in stimulus funding will go.