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Date: 06/28/2011
Title: SunRail tour stops in Volusia, Seminole
Top Florida transportation administrator Ananth Prasad is one third of the way through his Central Florida SunRail commuter train tour today.

Prasad met with the Volusia County Council in Daytona Beach shortly after sunrise, then followed up with an hourlong session in Sanford with the Seminole County Commission.

A standing-room-only crowd greeted him in Volusia, but there were a few empty seats at the gathering in Sanford.

Maitland is the next stop for Prasad, followed byOrlando, Orange County andOsceola County.

Prasad is going over the finances of the $1.2 billion project at each of the six appearances with local governments that would take over operations of the 61-mile system if Gov. Rick Scott approves it.

Scott put SunRail on hold in January, shortly after taking office. He promised to make a decision by July 1.

Members of various tea party groups, some from out of the area, are expected to rally against the train this afternoon at Orlando City Hall in downtown.

Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno, reached by telephone, said the majority of the 150 or so people who attended his event were pro-SunRail.

"It was a fabulous meeting," he said.

Prasad, who will meet the news media this afternoon, presented the seven-member Volusia board with a graphic showing the county's commitment to the commuter train amounts to $26.6 million in capital costs and $7.4 million in operations and maintenance expenses during the first 10 years the local agencies are in charge.

If Scott gives the go-ahead to SunRail, the first 31 miles – fromDeBary to south Orange County – could be up and running by May 2014. The state would run the train for the first seven years.

Prasad, Bruno said, told Volusia officials that the state would not bail out SunRail if it runs into unexpected difficulties.

"We understand things can change," Bruno said. "But we understand we share in what the changes may be."

In Seminole, Prasad pegged the SunRail costs at $46.2 million in capital costs and $20.26 million in operations and maintenance for the first decade.

If the county cannot meet the so-called O&M costs, he said, the state would use money set aside for road projects in the region to make up the shortfall. For example, Prasad said, a planned widening of State Road 46 could be postponed or never undertaken because of SunRail.

Seminole Chairwoman Brenda Carey said county officials are well aware of the expenses and already have the construction costs in a savings account.

"We have to do something besides build roads," she said.

Eighteen people spoke in favor of the train, including state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, and the presumptive House speaker in 2015. Three were against the train.

"It's going to be a success," Dorworth said of SunRail.

Scott already has set aside more than $269 million in the state budget that takes effect July 1 for SunRail.

The money largely is slated for CSX, the Jacksonville-based railroad company that owns the tracks the state would buy for the train.
Source: Orlando Sentinel
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