DELAND, Fla. — The Volusia County Council agreed to reaffirm its commitment to SunRail's planned DeLand station — but not without frustration.
- FDOT preparing to turn over cost to local governments in 2021
- Volusia County Council says state shouldn't do that until DeLand station opens
- Council members feel they have not gotten what they agreed to for SunRail
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The council voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter committing to funding one-quarter of the cost of a DeLand SunRail station, which was part of the original agreement. It is roughly $19 million.
But the council is also frustrated because the DeLand route should have been in operation by now. The council says Volusia County has not gotten from SunRail what they agreed to.
"They promised us a steak and made us a hamburger," said Councilman Ben Johnson.
The county is also concerned because the state is preparing to turn over the operating costs for SunRail to local governments in 2021. As far as the county is concerned, Florida Dept. of Transportation should not be able to turn over those costs until that DeLand station is built.
"It would be kind of like buying a house, and getting all the financing situated, and then when you get ready to pay for it, 'oh, by the way, the house is only a tenth the size that we thought. But we still want you to pay the same amount', and that's the problem that we have is a contract and the different things that have changed along the way," said Vice Chair Fred Lowry.
FDOT says it believes it has finally found a way to secure federal funds to finish the 12 miles of track and build the station, which it says has not been available. The money would come from redistributed highway funds.
FDOT sent a letter about this on July 12, and asked for the county to send a recommitment letter by July 17.
Councilwoman Billie Wheeler took issue with the fact that FDOT was demanding a commitment from the county without a more substantial guarantee that the federal money was there.
"'Exploring requesting funds?' This is still saying the same thing, as far as I'm concerned," Wheeler said, reading an excerpt from the FDOT letter. "They don't have a guarantee on anything, and they're wanting a commitment from us? The first commitment was in five days. I'm appalled."
Also, while the county hopes the money will be approved, the council is skeptical that Gov. DeSantis, who was not a SunRail supporter when he was a congressman, would sign off on this.
The county says it has tried in the past to get the agreement changed in the past, but they say they have not gotten any support from the other local partners in the Central Florida SunRail Commission.
The total cost for that project would be $75 million. The station would be adjacent to the Amtrak Station on Old New York West Road. There would need to be some sort of additional transportation to get travelers to downtown DeLand.