Campaign for high-speed rail and related jobs kicks off in Florida
January 12, 2010
TAMPA, FL – A group of Florida business, civic and political leaders today are kicking off a grassroots effort to convince the administration in Washington that Florida should get a slice of the stimulus money looming for high-speed rail projects.
At rallies set for Tampa and Orlando today the group is unveiling a campaign aimed at ensuring Florida gets that money – and, along with it, thousands of much-needed jobs.
The campaign is being spearheaded by, among others, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson, along with former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, of a high-speed rail group called ConnectUS.
A central part of the effort is a cable TV ad that asks Floridians to help win high-speed rail funds. The ad, to begin running on television today in Central Florida and Tampa Bay, asks Floridians to text the word “Jobs” to 24453. They’ll receive an instant reply text with a message for the president and the White House phone number. Internet ads with the same message will run statewide on social networking sites starting tomorrow. The campaign also seeks to mobilize labor and environmental activists.
Floridians who participate will be invited on their cellular phones to “ask the president to provide $2.53 billion to fund construction of high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando and jobs in Florida.”
Says Turanchik, president of ConnectUs, a key Florida grassroots high-speed rail advocacy group, "We are asking Floridians to take two minutes of their time to call the White House and ask the president to fully fund Florida high-speed rail. Those two minutes could lead to 23,000 jobs and a new basis for prosperity for Florida."
Adds Nelson, a chief bullet train proponent, "I’ve been pressing the administration hard on behalf of Florida. It might be good for the administration to hear from a lot of folks in Florida - folks who need the jobs and are tired of the congestion on our roads."
If Florida receives the stimulus funds, the Orlando-Tampa segment could create an estimated 23,000 construction and engineering jobs over four years and 600 jobs when the train is operating starting in 2015. Construction on the Orlando-Tampa segment could begin before the end of the current year.
A second rally is scheduled for this afternoon in Orlando, and is to be attended by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, Jacob Stuart, president of Central Florida Partnership, and Harry Barley, president of MetroPlan Orlando.
Both Orlando and Tampa would benefit enormously if Florida is selected to receive a portion of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money the federal government has set aside to develop rail travel around the country.
The rallies come as the U.S. Department of Transportation is close to deciding which cities will be the recipients of a portion of the $8 billion in stimulus money. In fact, according to Nelson, that decision could come this month.
So far, the federal transportation agency has received requests from 24 states for four times as much money as it has to give for high-speed rail projects. Florida’s Department of Transportation has applied for $2.5 billion for the Orlando-Tampa segment and $30 million in planning money for the Orlando-Miami segment.
In December, Nelson gathered Florida legislative leaders in his Washington office and led more than a dozen members of the state’s congressional delegation in a letter to federal transportation chief Ray LaHood after the Florida legislature voted to back passenger rail in the state. They wrote, "Now that the Legislature has truly shown its support for passenger rail in Florida, we trust you will find our state’s application to be extremely competitive."