Client News

Bradenton Herald: Governor makes the right decision on SunRail

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL | Project holds economic benefits for Manatee County

Good decision, governor.

Rick Scott bucked his tea party base with his somewhat surprising decision Friday to approve the central Florida commuter rail project known as SunRail — a most welcome decision that also holds economic benefits for Manatee County.

Over the next three decades, the project is expected to generate an economic impact of $8 billion and 250,000 direct and indirect jobs. SunRail construction alone will create an estimated 10,000 jobs.

SunRail will stretch 61 miles from south of Orlando to DeLand to the north. Seventeen stations will serve commuters, taking vehicles off the congested Interstate 4 corridor and speeding up commercial traffic. Ridership is projected at 2,150 passengers a day.

The potential for a big boost in business and jobs at Port Manatee was so appealing that the County Commission passed a resolution supporting SunRail in 2009. The port is in the midst of a major expansion to benefit from the completion of Panama Canal widening in three years with high hopes of attracting a large number of ships laden with cargo containers. Goods could be transported throughout the eastern United States via rail.

A key part of the $1.28 billion SunRail project is the improvement in the freight lines operated by CSX Corp. around the state. Infrastructure upgrades between Jacksonville and Tampa would ease the freight train bottleneck in Central Florida and allow a larger number of shipments to head north. With the quicker flow of goods, Port Manatee will be in a stronger competitive position in dealing with shipping lines — especially since it is the closest American port to the Panama Canal.

In addition, as Herald business editor Jennifer Rich reported Monday, Manatee County construction companies are poised to bid on pieces of the SunRail project.

Gov. Scott angered his tea party supporters, who had hoped his earlier decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail linking Orlando and Tampa was a sign he would kill SunRail, too. But the governor made a pragmatic decision on several levels.

Such powerful business organizations as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida stood in support, especially with the immediate job creation in the transportation and construction industries. The Republican-controlled Legislature also approved. The project was already far along with $235 million in contracts now set to move forward after Scott froze the funds in January.

The governor was also advised that he lacked legal standing to block the project, with his attorneys telling him he would likely lose a court case.

While the governor has faced sharp criticism over many issues, Scott deserves credit for a prudent decision on SunRail.

« Return to News