Controversial Commuter Rail's Surprising Backer

He's the most powerful congressman on transportation issues: none other than Florida's John Mica, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica is backing the 61-mile, $1.2 billion Orlando Sunrail Line.

SunRail would serve 4,300 daily riders providing half-hour headways during commute hours. Operating shortfalls would be subsidized by the federal government for the first seven years. Mica has championed the rail project since he proposed it in 1992 - when he entered Congress.

"The project is ranked last in cost effectiveness by the federal Department of Transportation among all projects in final design in the country."

"(S)keptics question whether Mr. Mica's real goal is to give a taxpayer-financed gift to CSX, the freight rail giant and a generous Mica campaign donor, which would get $432 million for its tracks...(Florida would) pay for improvements to a second freight rail line owned by CSX, which would shift freight traffic to a more rural route, allowing more freight trains to run at a faster speed. Because of cost overruns, that deal might ultimately cost the state an estimated $640 million."

Note: This article is part of NYT's "Champions" series that examines pet projects or causes of Congressional leaders.

Full Story: A Congressman's Pet Project; a Railroad’s Boon

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