December 18, 2010
The Winter Park City Commission approved amendments to the Commuter Rail agreement by a 3 to 2 vote on December 13, 2010. The Orange County Commission then approved these amendments unanimously the next day. What does this mean? It means that SunRail trains will stop at a new commuter rail station located with the existing Amtrak station in Winter Park if and when SunRail becomes a reality. (It currently appears that SunRail is on track to receive authorization and release existing funding to start construction of the system.)
The great achievement for Winter Park is that common sense has triumphed over righteous nonsense to get us a revised agreement with realistic financial caps and stronger opt out language now, rather than wait for seven years of SunRail operation to get to a negotiating point with Orange County. We should thank the three Winter Park commission members who voted for the amendments (Bradley, Anderson, and McMacken) and the Orange County staff and Commissioners for their reasonableness in agreeing to significant changes to an existing agreement they had no requirement to re-address.
If and when SunRail becomes a reality these trains will be coming through our city whether we like it or not. These recently approved amendments to Winter Park’s commuter rail agreement with Orange County offer clear and compelling improvements over the existing agreement that should have been the subject of unanimous commission approval.
Dillaha and Cooper were the two Winter Park commissioners voting against changing the commuter rail agreement for the better. Faced with the opportunity to get a much better deal for the city now (and the continuing opportunity to negotiate further), these two continued their efforts to obstruct SunRail and Winter Park’s participation (see this post).
This ongoing debacle has consumed far too much time and effort of our city and our commission. Hopefully, the approval of these amendments will end the nonsense, allowing Winter Park to participate in SunRail free for the first seven years of fare paying service. At the end of seven years the city will have the right to shut down our station rather than pay operating and maintenance costs to Orange County. Further, these costs are capped by the new amendments and a future city commission or citizen initiative can require a city wide vote to agree to pay those capped costs or shut down the station any time in the future.
Time to move on.
Regards, Pete Weldon