May 04--Two dozen current and former Central Florida politicians and several tea party affiliated groups joined a growing collection of SunRail opponents Wednesday by unveiling a website devoted to scuttling the $1.2 billion project.
They are trying to persuade Gov. Rick Scott, who put the commuter rail plan on hold in January, to kill the 61-mile system. Scott has promised to decide SunRail's fate by July.
Among those who signed onto the VETOSunRail.org site are Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins, former Winter Park Commissioner Beth Dillaha, former Winter Park Mayor David Strong, former Maitland Mayor Bob Breaux, former Orange County Commissioner Bob Freeman and the Orlando Tea Party Patriots.
They maintain the train is too expensive, would not carry many riders and predict taxes will rise to for operations and maintenance. If built, the system would connect downtown Orlando with Volusia, Seminole and Osceola counties.
"I am not saying no to mass transit. I am just saying there has to be a better way without the taxpayers being on the hook for it," Hawkins said.
Supporters say SunRail will provide an alternative to riding on traffic-clogged Interstate 4 and trigger new development around the 17 planned stations.
Dillaha, a longtime critic of SunRail, said in an email that Scott should do away with SunRail for the same reasons he stopped the proposed high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando.
"There is little ROI [return on investment] to the taxpayers who would fund this," Dillaha wrote.
Also weighing in against SunRail with Scott have been state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who wrote a letter urging the train's demise, and several tea party groups from around the state.
SunRail supporters also have been lobbying Scott. They include Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who has visited the governor in Tallahassee and spoken with him several times on the phone.
Christine Kefauver, Orlando's top transportation manager, said Wednesday at a meeting of the train's backers, "we are working every single day to tell the truth about SunRail, to make sure people are sharing actual and factual information."
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