Ground Broken on South FL Rail Project
Earlier this week, Central Florida leaders and representatives from Virgin Trains USA attended the groundbreaking of a $2 billion, 170-mile passenger rail project that will connect Orlando and South Florida.
According to Florida Politics, service for the double-track rail project is slated to begin late 2021 or in early 2022, a private endeavor that would connect the train company’s existing rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with Orlando.
South Florida Rail Project History
Wes Edens, spokesperson for train parent group Fortress Investment Group, noted that when he and others had first started establishing the idea of bringing European-style train service to the U.S., specifically South Florida, in 2008, the endeavor was faced with extreme doubt. Six years later, however, the first round of funding was secured. The South Florida line opened in 2017. The Orlando line has faced legal opposition for five years, however.
Previously, there had been plans for a train station at the Orlando International Airport around 15 or 20 years ago, plans that were approved before 2010, but the project was later canceled by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, Jeff Fuqua, former chair of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, told Florida Politics.
Virgin Trains, formerly known as Brightline, noted that it plans on investing $4 billion in the state projects.
"We will change the mobility in this state forever,” said Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard. "The most visited city in the world will now be connected to the cruise capital in the world.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the rail route from the Orlando Airport to Cocoa will help bridge the connection between Cocoa and Miami, with the 235-mile ride from Miami to Orlando taking around three hours. As a result of the project, which can run up to 125 mph when the Orlando International Airport stop is added, 3 million cars are estimated to be removed from Florida roadways between those two points.
During construction, 225 million pounds of American steel, along with 2 million spikes and bolts will be used, all of which is being moved by $2.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. Work has also already begun on clearing space at the Orlando Airport for a 200,000-square-foot maintenance building.
Sir Richard Branson said that he is confident the train line will be extended to Tampa and Disney World. The Florida line will have a total of 10, seven-car trains running between Miami and Orlando, each carrying 356 massengers.
"A rail connection between Florida's major cities has been a long-time vision," said Orange County Mayor Demings. "A higher speed rail connection between Miami and Orlando will be a valuable asset to central Florida's tourism industry and help create a super region with South Florida."