High Speed Rail & Eminent Domain

One of the objections to potential high-speed rail lines in Florida is that eminent domain costs could cause the project to escalate in costs. This may be a concern for the final Orlando-Miami route, but for the initial phase of the project, a rail line between Tampa and Orlando, this is largely not a concern because much of the route is already owned by the State of Florida. Nonetheless, eminent domain and cost remain two major factors in the debate over Florida high speed rail.

Show Piece

The rail link between Orlando and Tampa that was proposed and funded as part of the Stimulus Package was intended to be a "shovel ready" project because the rail line would follow I-4, where the State of Florida already owned the right-of-way. It was also intended to be a show piece for the entire high speed rail system. By contrasting the fast-moving rail with slow-moving and crowded (not to mention dangerous) traffic on I-4, the system would gain visibility, prestige, and support.

However, political maneuvering has put the project on hold and now Florida's governor has opted not to take the $2.4 billion offered by the Department of Transportation, even though this funding covers 90% of the estimated cost of the project. Following the lead of other governors, he has said that the move will prevent Florida taxpayers from being saddled with cost overruns in the project.

Final Cost

Another part of the governor's objections is that the cost of the small line between Tampa and Orlando is only a small cost of the overall system's price tag. Projecting the same cost for the rail line shows that the projected lines between Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Daytona Beach means the system as a whole would cost about $20 billion more to build, not considering eminent domain costs.

How much will eminent domain cost? $222,000 per parcel was the average cost to FDOT for acquiring parcels in 2010. How many parcels would need to be acquired? In urban areas, this can be a lot. For example, the I-95 Overland Bridge Project requires the acquisition of about 100 parcels for a quarter-mile stretch. Because this is a dense urban development, it's more concentrated than it would likely be for the entire stretch, but even assuming the entire stretch requires the acquisition of 100 parcels per mile rather than per quarter mile, we can estimate that the cost of acquiring right-of-way will add about $5 billion to the cost of the project.

Whether this project goes forward or not, it is indicative of the type of project that requires significant acquisition of land through eminent domain. At the Florida Property Rights Law Firm, we have the experience to fight for you against condemning authorities to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. If your property is being threatened with condemnation, please call or email us today for a consultation.