As I look back over the past 30 years I think about a historic reality that might have been — high-speed rail connecting Florida’s most populated areas, zipping professionals, vacationing tourists and traveling families between the Tampa Bay area and its many cultural attractions, to South Florida and its world-famous beaches, and Central Florida and its unparalleled attractions. All the while speeding past those cars still stuck on our heavily congested roads.
Although none of the plans I championed came to fruition, there’s one project that could make this dream a reality: All Aboard Florida, the proposed intercity, express passenger rail line that will connect South Florida and Central Florida.
For many years, high-speed rail advocates have been looking for ways to fund a statewide passenger rail system. Opponents have argued that, “If it’s such a good idea, then let the private sector do it.”
Now, Florida East Coast Industries has come forward with a plan to do just that. The company recognizes that the public’s increased demand for mobility makes the risk worthwhile.
Floridians and our visitors, many from other countries that have excellent passenger rail systems, will have an alternative to our clogged state and interstate roads. Thousands of people who do not own cars, or can’t drive, will be able to enjoy our Sunshine State as they never have before.
Initially, All Aboard Florida will connect Orlando International Airport — where Gov. Rick Scott has just proposed funding to build a passenger rail station — and Miami, with additional stops along the route running from the airport to Cocoa and then down the east coast.
All Aboard Florida’s executives expect to expand the service to Tampa and Jacksonville, ultimately serving the majority of Florida’s population — all without putting Florida taxpayers on the hook for its operation.
Finally, it seems that the dream of a passenger rail system serving citizens and visitors is about to become a reality.
Let’s all climb aboard and enthusiastically support All Aboard Florida!
C.C. (Doc) Dockery