April 28, 2010
Please contact our city commissioners after reading this.
First the great news!
The Commuter Rail Commission has confirmed that the state will now be picking up nearly half of the previously projected costs of operating Winter Park’s SunRail station
(Note #1). When we voted in 2007 to authorize the city commission to pay for our commuter rail station and its operation, the annual costs were estimated at $587,000 per year (Note #2). Revised projections near the end of 2007 put these estimates at roughly $700,000 per year (Note #3). With the latest changes in funding and pending new estimates being prepared by the state transportation authority, Winter Park’s costs will now be as low as $350,000 per year, a 50% reduction (See Note #1).
The other great news is that we are no longer expected to pay the originally anticipated $375,000 in matching funds to help support the cost of building our SunRail station.
The full cost of our station (about $3,000,000) will be paid in full through federal funding and our ongoing operating costs look like they will be reduced by as much as 50%. (Remember also that the state transportation agency will be paying ALL costs for the first seven years of commercial service.)
Also, the existing agreement with Orange County allows us to opt out of ongoing operating costs after seven years from initial commercial service if such costs are not otherwise subsidized. This existing “opt out” gives the city meaningful rights and together with the prospect of lost fare box revenue affords the city leverage to renegotiate with Orange County (probably around 2020) based on actual experience with our SunRail station. There is no need be fearful.
Now the bad news.
A “work session” of the city commission on this subject has been initiated by Commissioner Dillaha for Noon this Friday, April 30, 2010 ostensibly to parse “legal risks” associated with the commuter rail agreement with Orange County.
Dillaha’s move to terminate the commuter rail agreement with Orange County in January 2009 failed by a 3 to 2 vote (Note #4). With two new commissioners she now hopes to get three votes to kill the agreement under the guise of “renegotiating” with Orange County, not withstanding the campaign pledges of the new commissioners to honor the will of the voters and not to terminate the commuter rail agreement with Orange County.
Orange County may or may not volunteer changes to the agreement but there is no reason for them to negotiate anything. Unilaterally terminating the agreement as Dillaha has tried before will likely terminate our SunRail station, the $3,000,000 set aside for our station will be allocated somewhere else, and the commuter trains will pass through our town each day and never stop.
As the SunRail system progresses to complete funding and initiation of construction there are and will be changes we all need to monitor and approve. Changes to date are materially beneficial to Winter Park and make our participation even more of an opportunity than when we voted for our station in 2007.
Let our city commission know that we expect them to affirm the city’s commitment to our SunRail station and to promote a permanent regional funding source for SunRail, not obstruct our participation. Write to MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org.
Note #1: March 3, 2010 Minutes of the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission Technical Advisory Committee Page 2 item b. State funds replace $174 million in bonds and related interest payments that formerly burdened Winter Park with annual financing costs of $340,000 ($486,000 x 70% share), roughly half the total estimated annual costs of $700,000. See 2007 estimated cost schedule.
Note #2: Final January 2007 Winter Park Commuter Rail Task Force Report, Section D Page 6.
Note #3: 2007 estimated cost schedule.
Note #4: City Commission Minutes January 26, 2009 Page 9.