Around Osceola

Commissioners back All Aboard Florida

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 4:48 pm

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
With all the hoopla around last week’s startup of SunRail in Orange County still fresh in the minds of local transportation planners, the Board of Osceola County Commissioners threw its support behind another railway project.
CountyAt Monday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution to support the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger rail service that will link Central and South Florida.
Tentatively, the line will link Orlando International Airport with a southern hub in downtown Miami, with proposed stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale by paralleling State Road 528 (the Beachline) to connect with an existing, active rail corridor along the eastern portion of the state. The rail route is not currently projected to enter into Osceola County, but it will traverse the northern edges of the Deseret Ranch, land owned by the Latter-Day Saints Church that extends into Orange, Osceola and Brevard County.
“It’s all part of the regional, cooperative approach everyone’s taking to transportation in this area,” Deputy County Manager Beth Knight said.
Other than staff time to draft documents, there will be no financial impact to the county. Orange County, Seminole County and the city of Orlando have approval for their own resolutions on agendas for future meetings.
In the resolution, commissioners find “this proposed service is consistent with and furthers the State’s goal to have options for travelers to move between Central and South Florida,” and the Board “urges the Florida Department of Transportation and other regulatory/funding agencies to support the project as necessary.”
The $1.5 billion plan will be privately owned, operated and maintained by Florida East Coast Industries with what it calls “zero risk to Florida’s taxpayers” at the project’s website (www.allaboardflorida.com). The trip from Orlando to Miami would take about
three hours.
According to the website, construction will begin in the FEC Railway Corridor during 2014, and passenger operations are expected to begin in 2016.
The board did discuss transportation matters inherent to Osceola County at Monday’s meeting, as it gave Community Development Director Dave Tomek direction in how county staff should move forward with its Coordinated Transportation Program, which in a nutshell will determine how future road projects will be paid for.
“This is the cornerstone for our transportation funding,” Tomek said.
Two years ago, the county eliminated transportation impact fees and replaced them with a funding source called Dedicated Ad Valorem (DAT) funding, which would take advantage of more property taxes collected as real estate values increase.
But, when Tomek noted that road maintenance costs will exceed road building costs in the near future, he said DAT funding, despite it growing exponentially over the next few years, may not cover those costs.
Mobility fees, less expensive than impact fees, will be the subject of a study, but a second-option fuel tax is off the table, Tomek said. The board agreed with the findings of a county task force looking at the transportation forum that any new taxes that go to voters for approval should do so during a
special election.

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