The St. Augustine local news desk at Historic City News is following plans to implement the expansion of Amtrak long distance passenger rail service along Florida East Coast Railway lines after last week’s denial of a request for federal stimulus money.
The 351-mile railway line built by 19th-century tycoon Henry Flagler ended passenger service through St. Augustine and St. Johns County in the mid-1960’s. The former passenger depot still stands and is used for maintenance services by Florida East Coast Industries at a location off Ponce de Leon Boulevard near the intersection with north San Marco Avenue.
Based on a corridor service development plan that will be jointly developed by Florida Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Florida East Coast Railway and Tri-Rail, the project would provide route and operational improvements to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks as well as construct eight new passenger rail stations between Jacksonville and Miami; including a new depot in St. Augustine.
Money that would have gone towards making the Florida East Coast Amtrak Service a reality instead is being used to kick off a high-speed rail project linking Tampa and Orlando by 2014. Florida requested $2.5 billion for the Tampa-Orlando stretch and $30 million to begin the process of giving Orlando and Miami a similar service.
There is still hope for east coast cities that do not receive Amtrak service.
According to published statements, Nazih K. Hadda, Passenger Rail Development Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation plans on trying to tap into the $2.5 billion available through the U.S. Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act that will be available this year.
“We are going to continue to work with Amtrak to get this service,” said Hadda.