Florida Rallies for Rail $

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TAMPA (2009-08-18) -

Leaders from South Florida, Orlando and the Bay area are presenting a unified front hoping to bring high speed rail to the state. President Obama decides which systems get the stimulus money in December. And by some accounts, Florida leads the race.

Using I-275 as a backdrop, business and labor leaders, elected officials and civic activists have one goal in mind - $2.5 billion in federal money to build the nation's first high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando with plans for a second leg to Miami.

Ten states are seeking high speed rail funds, but Congresswoman Kathy Castor says Florida is leading the pack.

"Unlike any other state, Florida has secured all of the right of way and all of the permits and is ready to go," Castor says.

Florida also is showing a united front says Ronnie Duncan, a Tampa Bay Partnership board member and former Pinellas County Commissioner

"This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is not about South Florida versus Tampa versus Orlando versus North Florida," Ducan says. "This is about connecting the future of this state."

The effort has the support of South Florida. Joe Giulietti is with the authority that operates Miami's Tri-Rail commuter system.

"I'm here because two of my board members believe so fervently in this that they already agreed to be on the board here," Giulietti says.

The group says all that's left is to rally Floridians to show their support by signing onto their web site http://www.fastrailconnectus.com/.

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