Changes to Florida transportation bill could target Disney's monorail system
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Proposed changes to a Florida transportation bill appear to target Walt Disney World’s monorail system.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy will take up SB-1250, a general transportation bill that, if passed, would allow the Florida Department of Transportation to cover the cost of certain projects in rural areas and would allow law enforcement agencies to install automated license plate readers on state highways, as well as addressing some local transportation issues.
A proposed amendment to the bill includes a line with specific language that appears to target the Walt Disney World monorail system. This comes amid Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ongoing feud with Disney regarding its special taxing district established by the legislature in 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).
DeSantis’ problems with Disney can be traced to the company’s opposition to Florida’s HB-1577, which critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law. In response, DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year ousting the current RCID board and replacing it with DeSantis appointees. The district’s name was also changed to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Disney, however, had pre-emptively worked to undermined the changes, quietly removing power from the new board and placing it back in Disney’s hands for the next three decades.
The committee-proposed amendment of SB-1250 would require DOT oversight of the monorail and other fixed-guideway transportation systems “located within an independent special district created by local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties.” It would also give the state the authority to shut down the systems during inspection “to ensure safety and welfare of inspectors and the traveling public.”
The district covering Walt Disney World includes land in Orange and Osceola counties. The recently-constructed Disney Skyliner gondolas also appear to meet the DOT definition of a fixed guideway transportation system.
The bill does not specifically mention Disney or its transit systems, but Gov. DeSantis indicated the legislature would impose state guidelines and inspections over the monorail during a news conference at the Reedy Creek Administration Building last week.
“They exempted the monorail from any safety standards or inspections so they’re gonna go and make sure that the monorail is subject to oversight just like everything else would be in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
The governor has also called for state oversight of Walt Disney World rides, stating a proposed bill would eliminate the safety inspection exemption that covers large theme parks like Disney, Universal, Sea World and Busch Gardens, but only for those operating within special districts.
The Walt Disney World monorail system opened in 1971 and services millions of riders each year, according to Disney. The cars have undergone cosmetic updates and refurbishments in recent years, but have not been fully replaced since 1989. The system received upgrades to safeguards and operating procedures following a crash that killed a 21-year-old operator in 2009.