U. Studios Florida won’t fund light-rail

$40 mil contrib'n too much for Orlando transit

MIAMI — Universal Studios Florida has decided against a multi-million-dollar contribution to a light-rail system designed to reduce traffic crushes in the busy tourist areas of Orlando, saying the amount it’s being asked to pay is unreasonably high.

Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood said Wednesday that Universal Studios Florida chief Tom Williams had told her “they are not going to contribute” the estimated $40 million community leaders had asked the company to pay.

“He feels that it’s not a reasonable amount to contribute and that he had some concerns,” Hood said.

She said the move had come as a surprise as the company had “led the way” in promoting the light-rail concept and had said it would participate in financing.

But Universal spokesman Jim Canfield said Universal rejected the $40 million estimate as it made up “50% of the entire private sector contribution.”

Canfield said Universal was still open to negotiation but that the price was considerably high for a private company to contribute to a public transport project.

“We’re responding to a specific proposal and we’re rejecting that,” Canfield said.

But Hood remained confident the city could achieve a “win-win” situation through further negotiations.

According to the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week, Universal Studios “has been good to the community” in the past.

The newspaper said thousands of jobs have been created by its presence and it has attracted millions of tourists who boost the local economy.

But the newspaper was quick to point out that the community has responded in kind with taxpayers’ dollars spent on sewers, roads and water lines to accommodate the expanding studio park.

In fact, once expansion plans are complete, Universal could employ as many as 25,000 people and host millions of additional visitors each year. It currently employs 6,400 people.