It's back to the drawing board to come up with money for SunRail to go north of DeBary, mainly because ridership growth is going south.
U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, said Phase Two of SunRail is alive and well on the south end of the commuter rail line, where expansion into Osceola County continues because ridership is flourishing. But expansion beyond DeBary going north is in jeopardy.
"It does have low ridership," Mica told a group of state, county and local leaders Monday. "We'll explore all the potential possibilities of funding — some federal, some state, maybe some local."
Volusia County and DeLand city leaders were hoping to get a TIGER grant — short for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — to get SunRail to DeLand, but the grant was denied.
State Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, said it's time to pull the plug on expansion into DeLand until the ridership — and more importantly, the funding — is there.
"Many people refer to it as a white elephant because of the cost, not only for the upkeep and the money that was put in there, so we need to prove them wrong," Santiago said. "How do we do that? We increase ridership."
There was discussion about perhaps building a station in Orange City, which is closer to DeBary than DeLand. But everyone in Monday's meeting agreed it was time to figure out where funding will come from before any talk of expansion anywhere north of DeBary continues.