After enduring Gov. Rick Scott’s suspension of contracts and consequent year-long delay to the start of construction, local, state and federal officials celebrated the survival of their prized $1.3-billion SunRail project with a project kick-off in late January. Actual construction won’t be far behind, with initial sitework set to start in early February, says April Heller, public information officer with the Florida Dept. of Transportation.

Photo courtesy Florida Dept. of Transportation
FDOT District 5 Secretary Noranne Downs and Congressman John Mica (R-Winter Park) celebrated the start of the $1.3-billion SunRail commuter rail project in Central Florida.

Florida Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad credited local support for the project’s survival. In a press statement, Prasad said, “Your grassroots support for this critical project has made SunRail a reality for the citizens and businesses of Central Florida.”

Also in attendance was the local congressman who helped keep the project alive, Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica lobbied for Gov. Scott’s approval, and defended the controversial project in the New York Times, saying: “There is no more cost-effective solution to provide near-term relief to the region’s increasing highway congestion.”

At the event, Democratic congresswoman Corinne Brown of Orlando gave much of the credit to Rep. Mica, and added, “Not since the construction of I-4 has there been a transportation project of this magnitude.”

The 61-mile-long commuter rail system, to be built on existing lines along the Interstate 4 corridor, will provide commuter service from the counties of Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola.

A joint venture of Archer Western Contractors, Tampa, and RailWorks Track Systems, New York, holds the $168.1-million design-build contract covering phase one’s initial 31-mile segment running from DeBary in Volusia County to Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Crews should start excavation work in early February, says Heller.

The team’s contract includes double-tracking, signal improvements, station platforms, parking lots and an operations control center. SunRail should be up and providing “revenue service” by spring 2014, Heller adds.

Archer Western also holds a $27.5-million contract to build seven of the 12 stations included in phase one. A second contract covering the remaining five stations, estimated at $18 million, will be advertised to bid in March.

Yet to be determined are the bid dates for the contract covering operations and maintenance, estimated at $233.6 million, and the phase-two design-build contract, not yet estimated. This 30-mile phase will extend the system in two locations: westward from the Sand Lake Road station to Poinciana in Osceola County; and, in Volusia County, eastward from the DeBary station to Deland.