Florida Intercity Rail Miami Urbanism

How broadly applicable is the All Aboard Florida development strategy?

» Coupling real estate investment with the construction of new transit lines is the future, but the conditions need to be right.

Public development and ownership of the transportation system in the United States provided some broad, important social benefits that would not have been possible had our governments left it in the hands of the private sector. The downfall of the public transit and rail industries between the 1930s and 1970s throughout the country (itself partly a consequence of government investment in roads) was due to the fact that those services were no longer profitable. Government intervention through takeover of bankrupt lines kept those services operating and ensured the continuing existence of what is truly an essential public service in our major metropolitan areas.

Yet with the governments takeover of transit services, our regions lost a powerful skill that private transportation providers a century ago used well: Connecting new development with transit investments. The history of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is often told, but it bears repeating. The New York Central Railroad, which built the terminal, decided to submerge the tracks under Park Avenue north of the terminal in order to create a massive new business district surrounding the station. That neighborhood remains the nation’s most important commercial center.

The railroad understood that the land it used to build its line was valuable, and that allowing new investments in the area near its station would produce a virtuous cycle that built ridership, which, in turn, increased the value of the surrounding land. It’s an understanding we must absorb if we are to ensure that our transit investments are most effective.

After decades of simply ignoring the land use-related effects of transit investments, over the past two decades local governments have made halting efforts to take advantage of this fact, encouraging transit-oriented development by private investors in areas near new stations through the sale or lease of land or the altering of land use regulations to better accommodate denser growth. The most dramatic version of this is the Hudson Yards program on Manhattan’s West Side, where millions of square feet of new office and residential buildings are under construction or planned. Parts of this land was sold to a private bidder by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which will run a new subway station on the 7 Line, and parts were rezoned to allow big buildings by the city.

Altogether, this represents an intentional effort by New York City to repeat the lessons of Grand Central Terminal by merging transportation investment with a real estate program. But, unlike previous private sector development programs, the MTA and city have not been directly involved in the surrounding projects themselves, relying instead on third-party developers to make the choices and, eventually, reap the rewards.

All Aboard Florida’s $1.5 billion investment in new intercity rail services between Miami and Orlando suggests that the private sector is, in part, picking up the slack by taking advantage of the same forces that the private sector used to build its rail lines a century ago. The rail line will run 235 miles from downtown Miami to Orlando airport in around three hours (compared to five hours on Amtrak today). All Aboard Florida is investing in massive new station complexes in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. The Miami terminal, which will be located on company-owned land downtown, will include two million square feet of office or commercial space, and one million square feet of residential space, as shown below. The project is coming along more slowly than initially planned, but company officials insist they will not need government aid other than a large, low-interest loan from the federal government which it expects to pay back from ticket revenues.

Why has it taken so many decades for the private sector to get back into the development game? The growing demand by individuals to live in urban centers is attracting interest in monetizing the benefits of transit-oriented development, and that’s particularly true for large urban markets like Miami. All Aboard Florida will not need its real estate investments to subsidize its rail operations, which it expects to be operationally profitable, but those developments will certainly help justify the investment in the rail service. They’ll also build the rail line’s ridership, as they’ll create major destinations right at the stations.

Government transit agencies focus on the provision of good transit service, and if you ask management at most agencies, they’ll let you know that they need to focus on “what they’re good at,” i.e., running buses and trains. Yet that approach has repeatedly produced projects with mediocre ridership and little nearby development. Transit agencies are reliant on surrounding land uses to support their operations and whether or not they want to, they must make real estate development something they’re “good at.” It is in the public interest to make our transit system not only well-used, but also the foundation for a sound urban development strategy.

The idea of melding new transportation infrastructure with real estate investments does not have to be a strategy reserved to the private sector. For decades, Hong Kong has used its metro system (76% owned publicly) to invest in surrounding developments, which include properties as diverse as towers and shopping malls (this is known as the “rail plus property” model). Similarly, the Grand Paris Express program I profiled earlier this week will integrate its stations into large new developments directly planned by the government implementing agency (“Completed by private developers, the connected project takes into account the technical and functional prescriptions defined by” the agency, with a program “defined by municipal land use plans“). A special tax on property near stations on the line will help pay for the construction of the metro project.

Of course, the All Aboard Florida, Hong Kong metro, and Grand Paris Express projects are exceptional programs that cannot be repeated in most regions. All rely on strong local real estate markets where there is significant demand for major new development. All Aboard Florida takes advantage of that company’s prior ownership of the tracks used for the trains and of the land where its stations and surrounding real estate will be completed. Meanwhile, the transit investment programs in Hong Kong and Paris have been supported by major infusions of government grants that are not available in most American cities and by considerable political will to invest in the creation of denser, more transit-oriented regions.

Most U.S. regions are too sprawling, too auto-dominated, or too poor to expect this kind of transit-oriented development to occur simultaneously with new rail or bus links, particularly if that means that the transit agency has to take on some risk that a project will fail financially.

Nonetheless, major U.S. cities with significant demand for dense living and working environments like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Washington should evaluate their transit investment programs to ensure that they’re taking the greatest advantage of surrounding land to develop large real estate projects. These developments will not only increase system ridership but also bring decades of future revenue from office, residential, and retail rent, all of which can be used to improve transit system finances. Recent system expansions in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington — none of which have included major development projects on land owned by the transit agencies — suggest that there is significant work left to be done.

Images above: Proposed Miami station, from All Aboard Florida.

Airport Atlanta Dallas Light Rail Metro Rail Miami

Where There Were Once Many Lines Planned, Just One Opens in Miami

» The failure of a local sales tax to produce revenues as expected should dampen excitement around the latest extension of Miami’s Metrorail system.

Last week, Georgia voters overwhelmingly denied the passage of the T-SPLOST referendum, which, among other things, would have provided $7.2 billion for transportation over the next ten years to the Atlanta region thanks to income from a 1¢ sales tax. About half of that funding would have gone to public transit operations and expansion; in the city of Atlanta itself, the program would have paid for the beginning of work on the Beltline transit corridor, a light rail line to Emory University, several BRT lines, and a MARTA heavy rail extension. Voters were clearly unconvinced of the value of the transportation investments, were motivated by anti-tax sentiment, and felt that the projects would not benefit them directly. The result may be decades of increasing traffic in the metropolitan area with few new alternatives.

Yet some voters also expressed another concern: That the proposed projects, despite their inclusion in the official list of priorities, would not actually be built. Their sentiments were not necessarily unreasonable. The $7.2 billion supposed to be generated by the tax was an estimate, and if the economy continues to underperform, it’s quite possible that the actual revenues collected could have been much lower. Moreover, the list of transportation priorities was itself based on project cost estimates, which, if you know anything about U.S. construction projects, are liable to increase wildly.

If anyone was paying attention to Miami, they might be especially skeptical of the tax’s value. There, voters passed a 1/2¢ sales tax increase in 2002 by a huge margin. They were promised an enormous expansion of rail transit service, with dozens of miles of new lines shooting out of the existing Metrorail system in virtually every direction. What they got in reality, however, was one project: The 2.4-mile, one-stop Orange Line extension to the Airport, which opened last weekend at a cost of $506 million. No other rail service is expected to be funded before 2035.

Nonetheless, the Airport extension, which will bring downtown Miami within a 15-minute trip of the airport, is an impressive addition to the city’s transit network. The terminus at the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) is a beautiful feat of steel, concrete, and glass. By next year, the $2 billion MIC will allow for connections between Metrorail, Amtrak, Greyhound, rental cars, seven bus routes, and the region’s commuter Tri-Rail line. An automated people mover called MIA Mover already connects the complex to the terminals.

Miami’s Metrorail system, showing 2.4-mile extension to the airport and new Orange Line. Ridership in the southern part of the system is higher, so doubling service to the south is a reasonable decision. Source: Miami-Dade County. Read a critique of the new map from Cameron Booth.

The MIC station is expected to see 7,500 daily riders on Metrorail, a huge increase over the 66,000 daily riders currently recorded on the system’s 24.4 miles, according to APTA (up from about 45,000 a day in the late 1990s). Ridership on the system has been increasing relatively steadily since it opened in 1984, unsurprisingly considering the city’s growth during that period. Since 2000 population increase has been particularly quick, with the city now housing more than 408,000 people, a more than 10% increase over the past decade. Miami’s population density of more than 12,000 people per mile is now about the same as Chicago’s.

Thus the argument back in 2002 that something needed to be done to significantly improve the rail system. The People’s Transportation Plan, as it was known, was supposed to have raised $17 billion over 25 years, enough to guarantee the completion of a 10.6 east-west Metrorail corridor and 9.5-mile north corridor by 2016.

Several problems arose. The North Corridor, originally supposed to be the first project completed, repeatedly received poor ratings from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) thanks to low ridership estimates and poor management on the part of Miami-Dade transit. The FTA would have to contribute a significant portion of the project’s cost for it to be funded. At the same time, its projected price tag increased from $515 million to $1.63 billion. Similar problems plagued the East-West Corridor, of which the Airport Link was supposed to be the first phase. Indeed, the cost of this project doubled since initial estimates.

Meanwhile, the beginnings of the recession (which hurt Florida particularly badly) led to a decline in tax revenues. And the system, whose finances had been incorrectly tabulated in previous years, spent far more than expected on operating deficits and a new headquarters, leaving only the $400 million in local funding for the airport line.

By 2010, a partial expansion of bus service was basically entirely reversed, the other rail projects simply do not exist according to the Miami-Dade website, and the only improvements to the North Corridor have been in the form of an improved bus line.

Just as problematic, even when hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in new transit capital, the system has had trouble providing the services that an effective public transportation network is supposed to offer. While Metrorail service has been increased slightly to provide for a distribution of 10-minute peak services on the two branches (the Orange Line to the airport and the Green Line to Palmetto, the other, older terminus), at nights and weekends, trains will leave the airport only every 30 minutes. Nobody should be expected to wait half an hour for a train at the airport when arriving on Saturday at midday. And fewer people will ride as a result. How could the funding for this essential purpose not be available?

It will be convenient for a large number of people to get easier access between Miami’s airport and its downtown without having to deal with traffic, and indeed, the city is one of many American cities prioritising airport rail links. Dallas has its own Orange Line light rail project currently under construction and planned to open in 2014* (Chicago coincidently also has an Orange Line to its Midway Airport). But how much value do these airport connections bring, anyhow?

As I have previously written, airport transit connections are promoted (and prioritised) by urban elites because they are frequent air travellers — and trips to the airport are often the only travel for which they can conceive personally using the transit system. But other investments, such as in the densest areas of the city, usually provide more benefit to the average inhabitant of a metropolitan region. Given Miami’s downtown-oriented growth, there is reason to suspect that new lines operating in the center city, rather than toward the periphery (as the north and east-west corridors would have) would have been more attractive to riders. In this vein, Branden Helms argues that airport stations rarely attract the patronage expected for them. Is Miami’s prediction of a 12% increase in its rail system ridership reasonable?

Does this mean Miami’s new Metrorail extension is a waste of funds? Not necessarily — especially considering Miami’s distinctive position as the “capital of the Caribbean” — attracting millions of visitors and business people each year through the airport. If the city’s growth continues to be based on its status in Latin America, the airport connection may be invaluable.

Miami, however, is a parable: Voters will not always receive that which they believe to have endorsed.

* The first segment of Dallas’ Orange Line opened last week as well, with new service provided between the existing Bachman Station and Irving Convention Center. Additional stops further north at North Lake College and Belt Line are expected to open in early December.

Image at top: New MIA Metrorail Station, from Miami-Dade County

Airport Metro Rail Miami Washington DC

Does an Airport Line Have to Reach the Airport?

» For Washington Dulles Airport, raising the unthinkable on a new rail link.

Yesterday, Robert Brown, a member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), suggested rethinking his agency’s planned Metro rail extension out to Dulles Airport, the Washington region’s prime international gateway. Instead of the bringing this $2.8 billion rail link — frequently referred to as the Silver Line — directly to the airport, Brown noted that replacing the final 1.5-mile connection with a people mover would save $70 million thanks to a more limited right-of-way and the construction of one less Metro station.

The Silver Line is an extension of the Washington Metro’s Orange Line and will eventually reach Loudoun County. The first segment of the project, to Tyson’s Corner and Wiehle  Avenue, is planned to open for service next year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea was perceived as heresy, both by local commenters and board members. Mame Reiley, one board member, saidI just don’t think that’s what we labored for… it is not rail to Dulles.” Concerns were raised that the federal government might delay the program because the board was “starting over.” And indeed the proposal appears to have been dismissed by the authority board as unacceptable.

Counter-intuitively, however, such a change in alignment could be a reasonable money-saver and may actually improve transit service for both commuters and air travelers. And though the question is immediately relevant to the Dulles Rail extension, it is equally valid to many cities, as the issue of extending rail networks out towards airports is frequently of concern for transportation planners in major metropolitan areas.

The question of how to reach Dulles by rail has been fraught with controversy since project development began. Originally, the concept was to connect the Metro line to an underground station about 550 feet from the main terminal, but after the project’s price tag had exploded past $3 billion, an effort at cost-savings was in order. The MWAA, which runs Dulles Airport in addition to the Metro extension, eventually agreed in July April 2011 to move the stop about 600 feet further away — and to elevate it above the ground. Riders wanting to get off at Dulles will have to make the more than thousand-foot walk from the station to check-in.

Mr. Brown’s likely stillborn proposal to replace the direct rail link with a people mover reflects the fact that riders are likely to see this connection as inconvenient, especially compared to that at Reagan National Airport, where customers only have to walk about 150 feet between Metro platform and the terminal entrance.

Mr. Brown would reroute the Metro line away from the airport (the existing plan is shown in orange below and would be about 4 miles from Route 28 to Route 606), so that it runs directly along the Dulles Greenway (in blue, about 2.5 miles from Route 28 to Route 606). A people mover (also in blue, about 1.5 miles) would connect the Route 28 station to the front of the terminal. Though customers would have to transfer, they would now get a more direct journey, since it would be far easier to fit in front of the terminal the tracks and station for the people mover than it would have been for the Metro line (and in fact this explains why that latter possibility was never brought up).

This would save a total of $70 million, according to planner estimates, because it would replace about 1.5 miles of very expensive Metro infrastructure (readied for eight-car trains) with much lighter automatic people mover infrastructure, designed for one- or two-car trains.

We know this would save some money. How would this change affect customers?

Riders commuting in to Tyson’s Corner, Arlington, or Washington from outer suburban destinations on the end of the rail line west of Dulles would save time: At the 35 mph average speed expected for Silver Line trains,* it will take about 6.9 minutes to get from Route 28 to Route 606 using the current plan. The more direct route proposed by Mr. Brown would reduce that journey to 4.3 minutes. That’s almost half an hour in saved travel time per week per commuter.

Even better, those using the Silver Line to get to and from the airport might actually save time travelling too!** Though these customers would have to transfer between Dulles Metro and the people mover, if that connection were timed and across the platform (as is quite possible when two automated systems are linked and built at the same time), the time lost would be only two or three minutes. Meanwhile, once they actually get off at the terminal, the experience of riders taking the people mover would be much superior: Rather than walking 1,150 feet to the terminal — which would take them about 4.8 minutes on average — they would walk something more like 150 feet, which would take them only 0.6 minutes.*** See this back of the envelope comparison:

 Arrive at Rt 28 StationTimed Transfer to People MoverTime to Dulles Airport StationWalk to TerminalTotal Travel Time
Existing Proposal0 Min--2.5 Min4.8 Min (or about 3 Min by moving walkway)5.5-7.3 Min
People Mover Proposal0 Min3 Min2.5 Min0.6 Min6.1 Min

Though the use of the people mover raises questions about operating another rail system, it could be maintained with similar vehicles as those already servicing Dulles on the Aerotrain, which connects checked-in passengers to the terminals.

If these benefits are not convincing enough in themselves, it should be noted that the Washington region would not be alone if it chose to make its airport rail link stop somewhat short of the terminal itself. In Phoenix, the new light rail system was built in coordination with airport officials, who are currently constructing an automated train between the rail station and the terminals. The San Francisco Bay Area is building an airport connector to the Oakland Airport that will link a BART station some miles away to the terminals. And Miami’s new AirportLink Metro Rail project will not actually stop at the airport, but instead at a new central station (pictured at the top of this article), where transfers to a people mover will be offered.

Riders in these regions will not suffer; they may lose a few minutes transferring between trains, but if the connection is short and timed, that pain can be minimized. Avoiding the airport, paradoxically enough, could both save money and improve the situation for riders.

Update: I should say that the underground passage way from the elevated station as currently planned will include moving walkways (it already exists), so the time difference between getting from the elevated station to the terminals and getting from the people mover station to the terminals will not be as large as I suggested above. The time difference still should be in the range of two to three minutes longer, however, making the travel time about equal overall.

* 35 mph: PlanItMetro projects it will take about 22 minutes to travel the 12.8 miles between Dulles Airport and Tysons 7 Station.

** The only customers would would lose out with this change would be those traveling to and from Dulles from outer-suburban locations.

*** Assuming that people with bags travel at about 4 feet/second, a bit slower than the average walking speed of an elderly person.

Image above: Miami Central Station rendering, from Miami Intermodal Center

Metro Rail Miami

Miami’s Long-Sought Plans for Metro Extensions Dissolve as Funding Disappears

» Northern extension to Broward County line to be pulled out of federal New Starts process as limited tax revenues hit home. A reconsideration of priorities was in order anyway.

Miami-Dade County voters were promised way too much when they were asked to endorse a half-cent sales tax increase for better transit back in 2002. Not only would they get much more bus service, but also the construction of two new Metrorail extensions, more than doubling the size of the system by 2020.

Suffice it to say that despite electoral approval of the funding source, little has improved. Thanks to a reduction in tax receipts seen across the country and corruption within the transit agency, bus offerings have been cut back to levels not much different than those available around ten years ago. The one Metrorail line that has entered construction, the 2.4-mile AirportLink, has seen its cost double to more than half a billion dollars and its opening date delayed to April 2012.

Miami’s first and only Metrorail corridor opened in 1984 and now includes 22 miles of service to about 70,000 daily riders.

After a year of confusion about the status of the full “Orange Line,” which would have eventually included links west to Florida International University and north to the Broward County line, Miami-Dade County’s manager has announced that he will remove the project from the federal New Starts applicant pool. The County has been unable in recent years to convince Washington of the merits of the project, thanks both to difficulties assuring local support for transit operations and low projected ridership numbers; it has repeatedly received medium-low ratings from the Federal Transit Administration, making it unable to qualify for aid. In addition, the county’s sales tax revenues have been too low to even support a “light” bus rapid transit program along the NW 27th Avenue corridor where trains were supposed to go.

The North extension, also known as Orange Line Phase II, would have cost $1.6 billion and carry about 23,000 daily riders along 9.5 miles of tracks, a miserable investment-to-return ratio. The even more expensive 10.6-mile East-West line has been assumed to be dead for years.

This is bad, albeit unsurprising, news for Miami, which has been particularly hard hit by the recession. And it’s not alone: Other cities, including Dallas and Charlotte, are suffering similar fates. Nonetheless, the fact that Miami now must reevaluate both its transit funding system and its future priorities could lead to better thinking about cost-effective ways to advance the future of the city’s public transportation. It could also force local leaders to push for more sustainable funding.

The problem with Miami’s decision-making when it developed the Orange Line program ten years ago was that it envisioned very expensive metro service to areas that do not have the passenger demand for much more than upgraded buses. The low ridership estimates for the North corridor attest to the fact that areas to which extensions would run are of relatively low densities, with few big user generators along the route. Meanwhile, potentially more attractive routes through the county’s most populated areas, including along the waterfront and to places like Miami Beach and Little Havana, were simply not considered priorities by a board skewed towards the needs of the county’s north and west sides.

Moreover, the project was pursued without serious thinking as to how the system would work in the long term. Because both extensions would have been from sections of the existing system north of downtown, the Metrorail line would have become seriously unbalanced, with far more service needed to northern destinations than to areas south of downtown, causing operational difficulties. Even the first section to the airport, a one-station spur, will produce some difficulties, since Miami doesn’t have the funds to increase service dramatically and trains already only run every seven to eight minutes at rush hour and every 30 minutes on weekends. How attractive can an airport link be to customers who are forced to wait more than half an hour for a train?

The county does not have the funds to ponder major transportation projects at the moment, though it could focus on simple and cheap bus improvements like installing signal priority at intersections, improving customer information displays, and marking off dedicated lanes. These require no significant spending, just good management. Does Miami-Dade have what it takes?

Once the economy recovers and county board members wake up to the benefits of increased spending on public transportation, though, there should be a countywide rethink about the best way to use varying modes of transit. In the past, I’ve suggested that routes into Midtown and Miami Beach likely could garner enough passengers to merit the installation of cheap street-running light rail (though probably not Metrorail). In other areas, bus rapid transit is sufficient. But until the county’s back on its financial feet, nothing is going to be built.

Florida High-Speed Rail Miami Orlando

Florida Convenes Special Legislative Session for Sunrail, Tri-Rail, High-Speed Rail

» Newfound support for rail investment likely a result of push by DOT Secretary for the state to prop up train travel.

Update, 9 December 2009: Florida Senate passes the bill 27-10, an unexpectedly large majority, prepping the legislation for a signing by Governor Crist. Florida has put itself at the top, with California, in demanding federal funds for HSR.

Earlier this fall, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave Florida officials a choice: either buck up and support funding for the state’s commuter rail systems, or lose out on potential federal funding for a proposed high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando. Mr. LaHood’s challenge seems to have paid off: this week, state legislators began debating a law that would create a new Florida Rail Enterprise that would fund the existing Tri-Rail commuter system in Miami, ensure construction of the Orlando-area SunRail line, and take command of high-speed rail development. If the proposal passes next Wednesday as planned, Florida’s bid to host the nation’s first built-from-scratch high-speed line seems likely to win out.

With California, Florida has presented itself as a top competitor in the race for some of the nation’s $8 billion in stimulus money for fast trains. The state’s initial proposal has a $3.5 billion corridor between Tampa and Orlando along I-4 being constructed for an opening by 2014; it has asked Washington to cover $2.6 billion of those funds. The remaining costs would be covered by affected municipalities and corporations. Though the project lacks direct connections to downtown Orlando or Lakeland and would likely encourage sprawl in areas around Disney’s theme parks, it offers the possibility of up to 168 mph electric rail service and more than three million annual riders by 2025. An extension to Miami along the east coast could be built by 2017, the year before California’s phase one opens for its first riders.

Mr. LaHood’s suggestion earlier this year that Florida must fund its local rail systems before it is considered for high-speed funding encouraged the state assembly to hold a special week-long session on the matter, beginning yesterday. Most prominent in its goals: creating a new Florida Rail Enterprise organization that would operate as a division of the state DOT. FRE would develop a statewide intercity rail system and manage all of the state’s commuter rail lines, including Miami’s troubled Tri-Rail, which has been threatened with a shut-down if it is not adequately funded. Under the law, Tri-Rail would receive $15 million in state money annually for its survival.

Most relevant for Orlando-area residents, FRE would ensure the construction of the 61-mile SunRail corridor, which would connect the city’s northern and southern suburbs at a cost of $1.2 billion. Governor Charlie Crist (R), who has become a supporter of the project as he runs for Senate, sees it as a stepping stone towards high-speed rail. Not approving a bill supporting the project would be a “catastrophic” loss for the state according to the governor; indeed, it would mean Florida would lose its federal New Starts commitment to the project and it would probably be eliminated for consideration for the fast rail system. Politically, he would love to be able to announce a massive grant for the state; so would Mr. LaHood, since President Obama undoubtedly wants to repeat his 2008 victory in Florida in 2012.

Of course, passage of the bill won’t be as easy as it sounds, since similar legislation has failed in the state senate twice over the past two years. Though Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) claims he has the votes, he faces some in-party disgruntlement. Lakeland Senator Paula Dockery (R), who has been one of the major anti-rail advocates, continues to fight party leadership, arguing that the SunRail project is basically a pay-off to track owner CSX in the form of a massive $200 million-a-year liability policy for accidents on the line. Ms. Dockery is currently running for Governor against state Attorney General Bill McCollum (R), who is a supporter of the project. Ms. Dockery hopes to excited anti-tax tea partyers to her cause and win the campaign in 2010.

Meanwhile, the senate’s 14 Democrats (there are a total of 40 members in the body) are being pressured by the AFL-CIO to reject the plan. The union argues that the project does not guarantee stable, well-paying jobs. So it could be a close vote.

The senate’s passage of the proposal would basically ensure the creation of the FRE, since the house has signed through similar legislation repeatedly and will do the same this year. Mr. Crist will sign the bill into law.

If Florida passes the legislation, its application for high-speed rail funds is virtually assured acceptance by the Department of Transportation. If its proposal and California’s, at $4.7 billion, are chosen for full grants, that leaves $700 million for the rest of the country. That is, until the U.S. Congress expands its commitment to high-speed rail by dedicating $1 billion or more for the mode in the annual transportation appropriations process, a decision expected to be made early next year with the support of strong majorities in both houses.