COMPANIES OUTLINE PROPOSALS TO BUILD FLA. HIGH-SPEED TRAIN

COMPANIES OUTLINE PROPOSALS TO BUILD FLA. HIGH-SPEED TRAIN

Four companies seeking to build a state-of-the-art transportation system in Florida's congested corridors conjured images of a bullet train that would whisk passengers at speeds of 150-250 mph along a Tampa-Miami route.

Company representatives envisioned sleek, high-technology trains that resembled airplanes in appearance, planned suburbs and cities springing up along the routes and quiet and comfortable trips between Tampa and Miami that took only 90 minutes, regardless of the weather.State officials attending the presentations were urged to think about the tourism boom, the business opportunities and environmental advantage of having a clean and efficient way of moving as many as 6 million people along routes between Miami, Orlando and Tampa every year.

Legislative leaders seemed to like what they were hearing.

Florida was the first state to have a settlement in the new world, it was the site of the first moon launch and now it will be the site of the first truly modern rail system in the world, said House Speaker Jon Mills. I think it's symbolic of what Florida can become.

Mills, D-Gainesville, attended the crowded presentation ceremony in Florida's Old Capitol earlier this spring along with Gov. Bob Martinez, Senate President John Vogt, D-Merritt Island, and officials of the rail commission.

The Florida High Speed Rail Transportation Commission was not expected to award a franchise until September 1991 to allow time to study the project and its costs, which could run as high as $5 billion. The train linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami is expected to be running by 1995.

State guidelines mandate that the project must link the three cities, but the applicants will determine precise routes, financing agreements and the technology they will use.

The company that wins the franchise will be allowed to develop property adjacent to the route for rail stations and connecting attractions. The idea is that those developmental rights will help the company recoup the start-up costs of building the rail system.

One of the four applicants was TGV of Florida Inc., backed by the French company Alsthom, which supplies TGV trains to the French National Railways, and Bombardier Inc., a Canadian manufacturing consortium.

TGV's proposal for an electrified system would include trains that could run up to 185 mph and cost several billion dollars.

TGV's big advantage is that the system in France has been very successful.

All American MagnePlane Inc. argued that its technology was newer, faster and cleaner environmentally. The magnetic-levitation trains, called Mag-lev for short, would glide along a magnetic field along an elevated track. Because a magnetic force controls the movement of the train instead of electricity or diesel-powered engines, company officials said their system eliminates the dependence on oil.

That system also is expensive, in the neighborhood of $3 billion.

Two other companies, the Florida High Speed Rail Corp. and Stone & Webster Engineering Corp., have proposed plans for systems that run a little slower, in the neighborhood of 150 mph, and cost less because they use existing transportation corridors.

Stone & Webster has submitted the lowest general estimate of cost, recommending that the system could be built for about $1 billion.