In "the 11th hour," the Florida Department of Transportation decided not to seek a $25 million grant for the long-awaited DeLand SunRail station.
On Tuesday, a department spokesman attempted to explain why it prepared an application, which was to have been accompanied by some 180 letters of support, only to reach "consensus" in meeting with the Tallahassee office on Friday that it should not go forward.
Meanwhile, DeLand officials said they were "puzzled" and disappointed that the decision leaves the community "further and further behind" as more than $3 billion worth of transit-oriented development along the SunRail corridor has occurred — none of it in Volusia County.
A week after SunRail officials celebrated the start of construction of a 17.2-mile extension of the line south into Osceola County, department spokesman Steve Olson explained that the pursuit of a TIGER grant was not the best course of action for the other planned 12 miles of track going north to just west of DeLand.
Davis said his frustration also stems from the fact that Volusia County has done everything required of it — including setting aside $34 million a year and a half ago to cover its share of maintaining the system — to try to make the extension happen.
“At this rate, SunRail is not going to DeLand,” he said. “We can’t afford it. It would cost something like $120 million and Volusia County government doesn’t have it.”
If SunRail ultimately doesn’t go north from DeBary, Davis said there are provisions that could result in Volusia County’s share of the system’s costs being decreased.
“We’ve already had that discussion with FDOT, and told them that if it’s not going to DeLand, we’re not going to pay,” he said. “FDOT agrees. Somewhere in the documents is a statement that we might get an adjustment on our share of the costs” if the DeLand leg is not built.
Expanding SunRail northward involves laying a parallel 12.1 miles of tracks in the CSX rail corridor between DeBary and DeLand, as well as construction of a DeLand SunRail station, improving at-grade road crossings, and installing signalization along the route.
The price tag for all of that is now estimated at $70.3 million, or about $1.3 million higher than the 2015 estimate of $69 million for that Phase 2 North segment.
New date for SunRail: summer 2018?
SunRail’s appearance in Osceola County may be delayed — again.
At Monday’s Osceola County Commission’s meeting, Commissioner Viviana Janer, who also sits on the Central Florida Rail Commission, relayed that she was told trains may not start running south out of Orange County until possibly June or July 2018.
That is a delay from the last quote of February 2018, which is still two years later than the promise of seeing the white, yellow and orange trains in Kissimmee and Poinciana in 2016, when state and federal funding to the tune of $93 million was secured for the project back in 2014.
The rail commission, which will take over operation and funding of the rail line from the Florida Department of Transportation in 2021, still held out hope of starting service “early” in 2018.
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