Amtrak Trains Are Too Short This frame, from a short video made last weekend, shows something upsetting. The Amtrak Capitol Limited has just 2.5 revenue cars that travelers can buy a ticket for: one sleeper car shared by passengers and crew, one full sleeper, and only...
As the first privately held intercity passenger railroad in the U.S. in nearly 40 years, Brightline is creating a model for offering better train service around the country.
On Tuesday, it announced the Sunshine Corridor, a change in the track alignment from Orlando International Airport to Disney Springs. This new alignment, which incorporates a new station at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), serves a busy tourist area and job center anchored by Universal Orlando Resort.
This alignment will connect three of the biggest economic centers in Central Florida with frequent train service. The previous route went south of Orlando, avoiding the crowded tourism area for a more direct route to Disney Springs. The new alignment will likely run either in the middle of I-4 or east of the expressway, meaning the Disney station must be moved. But the plan is to have the new station as close as possible to Walt Disney Resort.
The Sunshine Corridor option has been discussed for several years, at the request of a coalition of local businesses and individuals. Universal, which has played a large role in facilitating the change, is donating 13 acres of land for the OCCC station and said it would support up to $125 million in private activity bonds towards the project. Universal and other partners will also contribute to, and collectively guarantee, $13 million in annual ticket sales for the Sunshine Corridor. That’s the estimated operating cost for year-round operation of the corridor.
Another exciting element is that it will be integrated with SunRail. Brightline and SunRail will share the east-west tracks from Orlando International Airport to Disney Springs, which intersects with their current north-south rail service. The plan is to have a SunRail transfer station where these two lines meet, allowing for easy connections to popular tourist destinations and job centers. SunRail plans to run at 15-minute frequencies, while Brightline plans to operate 18 round-trips per day between Orlando and Tampa.
Brightline is pursuing funds through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In fact, it has already secured $15.9 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. This funding—which is being matched by Brightline—will pay for the preliminary engineering and environmental approvals required to build the line between Orlando and Tampa. Brightline will be eligible to apply for additional grants to complete this project.
Brightline’s steady progress toward completing a 337-mile system—connecting Florida’s three largest population centers with hourly trains—is an exciting development that bodes well for the future of fast, frequent trains across America.