Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Train Station

The Central Florida Commuter Rail Project, now known as SunRail may be about to get a big boost from the Federal stimulus package recently passed by Congress. No, not because of monies allocated for commuter rail projects. Strangely enough, SunRail may get its biggest boost of all because of the $8 billion in the bill for High Speed Rail.

I have written previously about the possible motivations of SunRail's biggest opponent, State Senator Paula Dockery. Yes, that Paula Dockery, the one who is married to C.C. "Doc" Dockery, the sponsor of the Florida High Speed Rail Constitutional Amendment. You remember, the constitutional amendment for high speed rail that was repealed in a campaign led by then Governor Jeb Bush. The same Jeb Bush, who in one of his last acts as Governor, signed the deal with CSX to make the SunRail project feasible.

Last legislative session, Sen. Dockery was able to team up with the Florida trial lawyers lobby to derail the last piece of legislation necessary for the SunRail project to move forward. The legislation has since been modified so that the trial lawyers have dropped their opposition. That's not enough to stop Senator Dockery. Now she is on to a laundry list of reasons for opposing the bill, most of which are nonsense, as detailed by the Orlando Sentinel.

That brings us back to the federal stimulus money for high speed rail. The Tampa Tribune is now reporting that the Florida High Speed Rail Authority (who even knew that they still existed?)
is hopeful it can get some of the $8 billion recently set aside for high-speed rail projects nationwide.
Presumably, Sen. Dockery will be supportive of her husbands efforts to secure this Federal money. Almost certainly, securing this stimulus money will ultimately require the support of Governor Charlie Crist.

Of course, Governor Crist is now a full throated supporter of SunRail. I am sure the Governor would look more kindly on the high speed rail effort if Sen. Dockery could somehow be persuaded to be supportive of one of his legislative priorities for this upcoming legislative session.

Governor Crist is a farily persuasive fellow. He should use this opportunity to persuade Senator Dockery to be for something for a change.