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Florida lawmakers consider expanding high-speed rail system across the state — but not everyone is on board

"You could feel what this was going to do to our state."

"You could feel what this was going to do to our state."

Photo Credit: iStock

Brightline became the first new privately funded passenger rail in the United States in more than a century when it opened its West Palm Beach line in 2018. Now, its success has spurred some Florida lawmakers to try to get funding to expand its services in The Sunshine State.

Republican state representative Karen Gonzalez Pittman was won over after riding a Brightline train from Miami to Orlando and finding it, as many other passengers have, comfortable and convenient.

"You could feel the connectivity. You could feel what this was going to do to our state, how this was going to bring people closer," Rep. Gonzalez Pittman said.

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Gonzalez Pittman, along with state senators Nick DiCeglie and Jay Collins, is now attempting to get $50 million of state funding directed toward a Brightline extension along the Interstate 4 corridor, which would connect the service to Tampa Bay.

To come to fruition, however, the request will have to make it through the state Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has historically been opposed to high-speed rail development and federal and state funding for it. 

While campaigning for governor in 2019, DeSantis commented that Florida was "built on automobiles," and also said, "I don't think doing, like, a train is going to be the answer," adding, "I'm definitely not supporting any state funding for it."

So, while it seems unlikely that Brightline will receive any state funding in Florida as long as DeSantis remains in office, it is a good omen for the future of the company and for high-speed rail in the United States that several other republican politicians have embraced it.

High-speed rail, when compared to cars or airplanes, is an immensely more planet-friendly way to travel over long distances, transporting more people more efficiently, with far fewer planet-overheating gas pollution.

The sooner the U.S. can build a functioning high-speed rail system, the better it will be for its citizens and the planet.

"I'd buy annual passes to the Orlando parks if there was a train. As it is, it's not worth the drive on that f****** interstate, ruins the whole day. So yes, train please," wrote one Redditor commenting on a thread about the story.

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