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Environmental groups join bullet train defense

Environmental groups have joined forces with the man who financed the successful high-speed rail initiative four years ago to try to defeat a measure aimed at repealing it.

The Rail Truth, a political action committee formed this week to oppose Amendment 6, already has raised $135,00, said Ken Walton, a Tallahassee lobbyist and executive director of the group.

The group's initial funding of $75,000 came from C.C. "Doc" Dockery, a Lakeland millionaire who spent almost $3-million persuading voters to amend the state Constitution to require the construction of a high-speed rail system linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

Gov. Jeb Bush and Chief Finance Officer Tom Gallagher are leading a campaign to pass Amendment 6, which would repeal the 2000 amendment. They say building a $17-billion train system would jeopardize the state's financial future.

Derail the Bullet Train, the group formed by Bush and Gallagher, has contributions totaling $2-million.

Florida Audubon, the Sierra Club, the Florida Conservation Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, the Florida AFL-CIO and the Central/North Florida Carpenters Regional Council have joined forces with Dockery and others to oppose the repeal amendment.

They also will receive support from Voters for Public Integrity, a political committee formed by Orlando lawyer David Cardwell, who wrote the 2000 amendment. Dockery funded that group, too, with $150,000 of his own money. The group expects to raise about $60,000 from contributors.

Environmentalists say rail is an important alternative to highways and turnpikes.

"Clearly a bullet train is a good environmental alternative to building more roads," said Eric Draper of Audubon.

Jay Liles, spokesman for the Conservation Alliance, said voters were not confused by the 2000 measure and merely wanted to see the state avoid building new highways and preserve Florida's water and air.

Cindy Hall, spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said building the train would create high-paying jobs.

Walton acknowledged it will be tricky explaining the measure because supporters of high-speed rail will have to vote no on the amendment.

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