Time to take on Orange Countyís rail hogs
Date: Thursday, March 13th @ 10:06
Topic: Opinions

Tom Germond Assistant editor

Itís premature for Osceola County to go to war with Orange County.

Before the county considers such a preemptory strike, the county should secede from Central Florida.

At issue, of course, is mass transit.

A committee that represents hotel interests in Orange County believes that the proposed high-speed rail should include a stop near their convention center along its way between Tampa and Orlando. This is known as the Beeline route.

In so many words, Orangeís rail hogs are saying that all roads lead to their convention center. To hear the rail hogs talk, Orangeís convention center could outdraw a half-price day at Wal-Mart.

The construction of a high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa, as you may recall, was mandated by a state constitutional amendment approved in 2000.

Osceola leaders argue that the Beeline route would jeopardize the chance of building a leg of the light rail transit system also being studied down to Osceola County because the high-speed system would take up the right of way along Interstate 4 needed for the connection. Instead, they support the second alternative for high-speed rail, using the right of way along I-4 from Tampa to the GreeneWay and directly to Orlando International Airport.

There are not enough rights of way along the corridor for both systems. Where else could light rail go? Above the interstate?

All in favor of spending millions of dollars for financing an elevated platform above I-4 for light rail, say aye; motion dies for a lack of a second.

Thought so.

To hear the rail hogs talk, youíd think International Drive is the Champs Elysees of Central Florida. Itís not. Itís the Rue de Regurgitateó overpriced chain restaurants and hotels ad nauseam.

And why is it called International Drive? Because it caters to world-class idiots?

OK. U.S. Highway 192 wonít ever be accused of being Bourbon Street. However, all those in favor of going to Ripleyís Believe It or Not on International Drive over the Big Bamboo, say aye.

Motion dies for a lack of second.

Thought so.

In fact, why canít a high-speed rail line run along 192 to the Big Bamboo?

Sorry. Iím getting sidetracked here.

Back to the GreeneWay. If the agency that eventually will decide a route, the High Speed Rail Authority, is so shortsighted that they canít see the advantages of running light rail along the Beeline, Osceola has no business being associated with regional transportation groups.

Using the Beeline for high-speed rail, as opposed to the GreeneWay, would eliminate the ability to have stops at several key activity centers. Fares would run higher for high-speed rail, too, officials say.

If the rail authority, by virtue of selecting the Beeline option, severs Osceola from Orange County, then itís time for Osceola County to take drastic action:

A. Secede. Regionalism be damned. Osceola County officials should resign from all policy-making and planning agencies representing Central Florida and stop shelling out money for Metroplan, the areaís transportation planning agency. Thatís $97,470 from Osceola County for this year and $37,181 from Kissimmee.

What good does it do for Osceola officials to sit on all these boards and send thousands of dollars to finance regional transportation projects if we donít benefit from them?

All that it would accomplish is to give credence to arguments that local governments are just throwing money Orange Countyís way. I can just hear Doug Get-a-life and the rest of his Ax the Tax boys chanting, ďI told you so.Ē

B. Boycott Orange Countyís most popular professional entertainment venues. In other words, the topless joints.

C. Create chaos on International Drive. Send residents, undercover, to a fern bar at one of I-Driveís play palaces, buy an intoxicated conventioneer a drink and give him an exploding cigar. Then run like hell.

D. Go to downtown Orlando and tell tourists about friendly Osceola County. Tell them, for instance, that our cops donít arrest people for jaywalking.

There is an alternative to secession: diplomacy. We could invite all Central Florida politicos and business leaders, including Orangeís rail hogs, to come to Osceola County and see that we exist. Show that, we, too, have a lot at stake with high-speed rail plans.

The meeting should be held in a place where everybody can relax, someplace quaint and dear to our hearts:

The Big Bamboo, of course.

This article comes from Osceola News Gazette

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