24 February, 2009

"Jacksonville" will build Orlando Commuter Rail!

In many ways Portland and Jacksonville are twin Sisters in different worlds, Portland get's it and Jacksonville doesn't.
Here we sit in apparent political blindness awaiting something, anything to happen with our own commuter rail plans in Jacksonville. Suddenly over the air comes the word that SUNRAIL the meaningless name for the Orlando Commuter Rail project will be built by a Jacksonville firm.

The bid was just awarded.

$163.28 Million dollars was the bid from Jacksonville based Archer Western Contractors/Rail Works, a partnership of the Parsons Transportation Group and TransSystems. There were two other bids which came in some millions higher. The work includes designing and building sections of double tracks along the rail corridor as well as building a signal system, concrete station platforms, several improved rail crossings and a control center in Sanford.

The project planners built in a give and take 15% contingency in the event the costs spiral above the estimates, as indeed they did. But in the case of our Jacksonville firm, it was only a difference of $5 Million, close enough for government work.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that: Archer Western likely will sign a formal agreement with FDOT in March and probably will start hiring staff in April. If SunRail wins the approval of the Legislature during the session that starts next month, FDOT will purchase 61.5 miles of tracks from CSX by June 30, with construction starting as early Sept. 30.

So Orlando? Is big Sister to the North jelous? Not at all, we'll gladly finance it for you, build it for you, even operate it for you over those previously Jacksonville/CSX owned tracks, but do it ourselves? Why we don't even know how to spell RALE.

Perhaps it boils down to the culture of two completely different cities. Orlando has lived in Fantasy Land since 1965, selling the dream outside of the box. Back in Jacksonville, we've been more then happy to make the bricks, stir the asphalt and haul it to the site, but we've never even seen Fantasy Land. From inside our glass towers, smokestacks and wharves, it's hard to even imagine the approach of a fast new train.

Time to pull our collective heads out!

1 comment:

  1. Great commentary Bob. Leaves me kinda bitter but congrats Orlando.



The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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