Lakeland Summit Addresses High-Speed Rail Connecting Tampa, Orlando

The Lakeland Civic Center hosted a group of businessmen, community leaders and visionaries  on March 24, 2010, who gathered to discuss the high-speed rail proposed between Tampa and Orlando. It marked the first meeting of its kind since President Obama announced that Florida would receive $1.25 billion toward railway construction.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer listened as representatives from the Tampa Bay Partnership, Central Florida Partnership, Florida Rail Enterprise and other entities with a stake in the proposed rail system presented their findings and plans related to the proposed route, which would run from Tampa's Ybor City and the Orlando International Airport.

"We start today to create a vision, a template for connectivity," says Ed Turanchik, founder of ConnectUs, a grassroots organization. "High-speed rail builds a bigger community from smaller ones."

Representatives from Florida Rail Enterprise presented an overview of the high-speed rail plan, which provides for stops at USF Polytechnic in Lakeland and Kathleen Avenue locations, Walt Disney Resort and the Orange County Convention Center.

Dyer of Orlando and Ronnie Duncan of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) spoke about their region's plans for additional rail service to augment transportation from the high-speed system to key locations throughout Orlando and the Tampa Bay area.

These reports and others from Orlando's SunRail and Tampa's transit system sound promising, says Shelley Lauten, president of myregion.org and project director of Connecting for Global Competitiveness: Tampa Bay Central Florida Super Region.

The Tampa-Orlando rail line is designed to become part of a bigger network that will link Orlando with Miami. Proponents of the plan say construction along the Interstate 4 corridor could begin as early as February or March of 2011, and conclude in 2015.

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Ed Turanchik, ConnectUs
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