Tampa audience learns details on Tampa-Orlando high speed rail line

Among those in the audience were Tampa City Council members Yolie Capin and Mary Mulhern.  Mulhern had led the way for the Council to request that the Rail Enterprise look for federal monies to try to add a station to Tampa International Airport, but that idea has been quashed by the Enterprise as well as others like Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

When answering audience questions, Thibault said a 2002 study, updated in 2009, that analyzed ridership levels never included a Tampa rail stop at the airport, and “any changes would affect the earlier document.”

He also said he wasn’t aware at all what the cost of tickets on the rail lines would be, nor was he certain whether there would be TSA agents inspecting riders.

Similar events were to be held this week in Lakeland and Orlando.

The Florida Rail Commission, the state organization responsible for implementing the high speed rail initiative, held their first meeting that allowed for public comment at the Tampa Convention Center Tuesday night.  Although there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of seats set up,  there didn’t appear to be more than 100-125 people in attendance.

Kevin Thibault, the organization’s head, gave a relatively dry PowerPoint presentation on the most basic facts about the status of the project right now, before answering questions written by audience members that he read aloud and then answered.

Thibault said that during the construction period there would be a need for 500 jobs.  He said after that ended there would be between 600 to 1,000 permanent direct operating jobs available, and 500 indirect jobs available.

RFQ’s, or Requests for Qualifications for a vendor that would run the system that would begin from Tampa to Orlando, will begin this November, with the winning team to be selected in 2011.  The first trains are  scheduled to roll out in 2015, “almost a decade ahead of California,” Thibault boasted, saying that only Florida and California have advanced plans to construct a high speed rail system.

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