Volusia leaders refuse to give up on SunRail to DeLand

- A round table of leaders from Volusia County met on Monday to try and figure out how to salvage SunRail to DeLand. The last 12 miles that were planned for SunRail was denied by the federal government, because they said it would not have enough riders.

Congressman John Mica, R-Winter Park, says the way Phase II was originally planned would have worked. The numbers from Kissimmee to Orlando were big enough, but he blamed the state Department of Transportation, and Volusia County, for not having their acts together.  

"Volusia County, when the train came out of the station wasn't quite ready," he said.

The county and FDOT were in a dispute over whether there would be double tracking, and if there would be a safety technology incorporated into the design. Going to DeLand would carry just 200 passengers a day. When we asked Congressman Mica if they should just abandon this plan, because there would be so few riders, he gave the opposite answer, saying the train should expand even more.  

"One of the things we want to look at is increasing the ridership potential, maybe with Orange City, but that also has some implications."

Those "implications" would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in new track, roads and infrastructure. FDOT District 5 Secretary Noranne Downs is also not ready to throw in the towel.  

"There are options, and DeLand is viable," she said.

The options mostly involve trying to get federal grants SunRail has already been denied before. Another option is to have either state of local taxpayers pick up the rest of the tab. It's currently estimated to cost $80 million for the 12-mile extension. The feds are supposed to pay half of that cost with the other half being split between state and local taxpayers. Volusia County Chairman Jason Davis says he plans to take these options back to his Council, but seemed pessimistic.

"Somebody may have a magic rabbit that they pull out of their hat and say, 'Oh and here's where you get the money! Ok, let's go,'" he said.  "Without that money, it is going to be on hold, until we get that money."

SunRail Phase II South is already underway with stops planned at Meadow Woods, the Tupperware headquarters, Kissimmee, and Poinciana.  A study is also underway to take the train to Orlando International Airport.

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