Posted: 5:12 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, 2013

Phase 2 of SunRail faces uphill battle

SunRail passenger cars
SunRail passenger cars

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. —

Political wrangling in D.C. may end up delaying work on phase two of SunRail.

Construction needs to start on phase two in just six months.

Phase two will extend SunRail to the west and to the east.

Lawmakers did not put the promised federal money in the 2014 budget, and it could be a battle to get that money in the 2015 budget.

They've been working on the railroad, but they may soon have to stop.

"It's going to be a tough, uphill battle," Frank Attkisson said.

Attkisson, chair of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Association, went to Washington, D.C., last week to try to secure the $85 million the federal government promised long ago for phase two.

"The venom that is in the culture in D.C. is more than I've ever seen," Attkisson said.

Phase two is a critical extension of SunRail -- from south Orange County to Poinciana and from DeBary to DeLand.

If SunRail stops 8 miles down the tracks from a station with access to Walt Disney World, it could lose out on thousands of key riders it needs to be successful.

"If you do only phase one, it will have some challenging ridership numbers," Attkisson said.

Congressman John Mica says he is confident there will be a way to move SunRail forward with little or no delay.

He said it is up to the president to put the funding in the budget.

"The administration has to decide how much they want to put toward transportation projects; that's entirely up to the president; we'll see. If the president doesn't act, we do have a fallback position," Mica said.

The fallback is for the state and local governments to move forward with a sort of IOU from the federal government.

"We're competing against 20 other metropolitan areas that all want advanced transportation systems. We've got to be unified; we'll do that," Mica said. "Where there's a will, there's hopefully a way."

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