TALLAHASSEE - Roused by his tea party base, Gov. Rick Scott early this year halted a decades-in-the-works bullet train linking Tampa and Orlando - citing concerns about possible costs to Florida taxpayers.
Yet a different fate awaits a commuter rail line in Central Florida that would cost state taxpayers even more.
Why is SunRail likely to go forward when high-speed rail did not?
A mix of politics, legal concerns and an opportunity to more quickly move commercial cargo, opponents and proponents of the project say.
Scott faces a Saturday deadline to decide whether to proceed with the 61.5-mile commuter train connecting downtown Orlando to neighboring counties.
Tea party activists and other SunRail opponents plan to protest the project Tuesday when the state's transportation secretary hosts public hearings on the topic with Orlando-area city and county officials.
"Gov. Scott campaigned on government accountability and not putting the taxpayers at risk. That is his mantra. And he used that when he talked about the high-speed rail deal," said Beth Dillaha, a former Winter Park city commissioner and founder of the group vetosunrail.org. "I don't know how you could then support SunRail, which has all the same issues and then some."
The governor, though, faces challenges and opportunities with SunRail he didn't with high-speed rail. And while approving it will rankle Scott's tea party base, it could also help advance parts of his agenda.
*?SunRail is a top priority for powerful House Speaker Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican whose chamber proved friendly to Scott in the past legislative session.
*?State lawmakers have budgeted and spent millions of dollars on the project. No state money was budgeted for high-speed rail.
*?And the SunRail deal comes with a sweetener for Scott: $432 million in state money to move and upgrade commercial freight lines for CSX Corp., a North American freight rail operator.
It's an investment that could help Scott advance his goal of turning Florida into "the shipping capital of the East Coast, if not the nation."
In a letter sent this month to the governor, Florida Chamber of Commerce president Mark Wilson wrote: "SunRail will result directly in an increase in global trade in Florida."
One piece of that puzzle, according to a Florida Chamber Foundation report that informed Scott's decision on high-speed rail, is a state-of-the-art "intermodal" freight center for CSX in Winter Haven that's in the SunRail deal.
It's something CSX would build on its own - it built one in Ohio - but not until the economy improves, said company spokesman Gary Sease.
The center will make it easier for CSX to move freight between trains and trucks, a critical link in the movement of cargo that comes in and out of U.S. ports.
Long-term, the site could hold warehouses for big-box retailers, or a manufacturing plant, which would diversify Florida's tourism and agriculture-heavy economy.
But concerns about the large payment to CSX and a requirement that the state assume all liability for any accidents that might occur on tracks shared with CSX kept Florida lawmakers from approving SunRail in two full legislative sessions.
It finally got the green light in December 2009 during a special session called by Gov. Charlie Crist to attract federal stimulus money for high-speed rail, something that had been in the planning stages for decades.
Hungry for the bullet train money, lawmakers were told it wouldn't arrive without the state also showing a commitment to passenger rail to provide connections to the federal project. So they approved plans for SunRail, along with high-speed rail and funding for Tri-Rail, a small, struggling rail line in South Florida.
"I've been a representative for three years and that's the vote I'm most uncomfortable with," said Mike Weinstein, a Jacksonville Republican and tea party leader who voted in favor of the rail bills. "We moved so quickly on a very, very complicated and potentially costly idea. I don't think we spent enough time on it. It was a package deal. We couldn't unravel the package. It was Tri-Rail, SunRail and high-speed rail."