110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 11, 2012 - 8:28:11am
As officials from the Florida Department of Transportation updated the Volusia County Council April 5 about SunRail, the conversation suddenly took a turn.
Council Member Pat Northey questioned whether the right location had been selected for the DeLand station, planned west of town at the existing Amtrak station on Old New York Avenue.
Northey suggested, instead, putting the station off County Road 472, close to Orange City.
Now, a workshop is in the works, with DeLand, Orange City and Deltona representatives attending to talk about where the commuter-rail station should be built. It’s likely the Department of Transportation will coordinate an analysis of alternatives.
The location of DeBary’s station, at least, is fixed on Fort Florida Road not far from U.S. Highway 17-92. A groundbreaking is planned for that station on Monday, June 11.
While DeBary is part of the commuter-rail project’s first phase, the DeLand station is to be built as part of Phase 2.
At the April 5 County Council meeting, Council Member Northey, who represents Southwest Volusia, turned the conversation to the location of the DeLand station.
Council Member Josh Wagner, who represents the Daytona Beach area, joined Northey in the discussion, saying that if SunRail isn’t built right at the beginning, it will require a larger taxpayer subsidy. The rail, if successful, he said, should pay for itself, and a station along C.R. 472 near I-4 would provide an easier connection to Daytona Beach.
Wagner said while he understands the Amtrak connection is important, he can’t see running a line between Daytona Beach and the Amtrak station on DeLand’s west side.
County Council Member Andy Kelly, who represents the DeLand area, said he had suggested an alternate location for the DeLand station a couple of years ago.
Kelly said he has nothing against DeLand, but he wants what is best for the entire county and SunRail ridership.
DeLand residents in the vicinity of the Amtrak station are worried about an increase in traffic and development in the area once SunRail is up and running, Kelly said.
He also noted the county owns adequate right of way to extend C.R. 472 west to the railroad tracks, and the area already has the right zoning for hotels.
Kelly also said the proposed alternate location would provide easier access to SunRail for residents of DeLand, Orange City and northern Deltona. Also, he said, the roads in the area are better able to handle commuter and truck traffic, while the roads surrounding the Amtrak station are narrow, winding and slow-going.
County Chair Frank Bruno and Council Vice Chair Joyce Cusack said plans should stay on track, with the station west of DeLand — already planned and funded.
“What we worked for very hard at the state and federal level was to get that station in DeLand,” Cusack said. “It has to be done.”
SunRail Project Manager Tawny Olore of the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) said the corridor to the DeLand station has already been purchased and cleared environmentally. It would cost a lot of money to do an environmental analysis and other studies, and building another station would be very expensive, she said.
She also noted that inter-local agreements have already been signed and money committed by the state and federal governments to construct the first phase as planned. Even two years ago, Olore said, would have been late in the game to change a station’s location.
An alternatives-analysis study could look at the feasibility and cost of relocating the station. The study would take about 18 months and cost around $1.75 million.
“It’s coming down to two issues: how to maximize the DeLand site and ridership, and how to get connectivity to the east side,” DOT spokesman Steve Olson said, adding, “To change the existing plan would be very complicated.”
Both Bruno and Cusack said postponement could make Volusia County fall behind the other counties in getting state and federal dollars for SunRail-related projects.
The discussion will continue during the next County Council meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Thursday April 19, in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand.
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