Feds reject proposal
Maitland abandoned plans Sept. 2 to move its SunRail station closer to its downtown core.
The Federal Transit Administration rejected the idea last week, and the Florida Department of Transportation told City Council that it would cost the city more than $10 million to make the proposed site on George Avenue meet state standards because of curves, uneven ground and narrow right-of-ways.
Moving the station could have also affected the federal funding agreement for the entire 61-mile commuter rail project, FDOT SunRail Program Manager Tawny Olore told Council at a special meeting on Sept. 2.
“That can put the whole project in jeopardy,” Olore said, adding that it would also cause expensive delays.
Last month, Maitland started looking into moving the SunRail station from the Parker Lumber property on the north side of the city to the heart of downtown — behind the First Presbyterian Church of Maitland on George Avenue.
In January, the state changed design guidelines to require that a station site have 800 feet of straight track instead of 1,000, seemingly qualifying the church property.
DOT would have to construct an additional track from north of Sybelia Parkway to Ventris Avenue and make crossing improvements to five cross streets, costing about $10 million, officials said. It would also have to perform an environmental study, which would take nine months to a year and cost about $750,000. The city would have been responsible for the tab because the federal government budget is already locked in, Olore said.
The news led City Council to give up the idea to move the station.
“I’m convinced we’ve explored every area,” Councilwoman Linda Frosch said.
Councilman Ivan Valdes said the outcome was unfortunate, but the city was right to investigate the relocation.
“If we didn’t ask then we would have no business serving the citizens going forward,” Valdes said. “That’s what this process is about.”
Commuters vs. customers
The city had proposed the change in order to get more traffic to their master-planned downtown. But resident Bill Randolph said the folks riding commuter rail would mostly be commuters not customers.
“We’re talking about bringing people in to workforce centers from outside areas that today cost so much to commute to and it clogs [Interstate 4],” he said. “Maybe some people will jump on to go shopping, but it’s not going to be the predominant use."
State officials will now move forward with acquiring the Parker Lumber site.
“We have an offer letter from the Parkers and a meeting next week, and we expect to have the property in place by the end of this year,” Olore said.
The Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission will own the station’s platform, and the station will be maintained through a joint agreement between DOT and Maitland.