Disney backs bullet train proposal

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All aboard! You too, Mickey, Goofy, and Cinderella.

On Friday, Florida officially applied for federal funds to begin building a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando, and gained crucial support from Walt Disney World.

The theme park is offering 50 acres of land valued at $25 million to build a station on or near the state’s signature resort.

“Disney World is the number one tourist attraction in the world, so you’d have tons of people from all over who would see this,” said Ramond Chiaramonte, Executive Director of Hillsborough’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. “It would be a tourist attraction in itself.”

Florida has applied for $2.5 billion in fast-tracked federal funds to install 120 m.p.h. trains in the grassy Interstate 4 median. The trains would commence at the site of the Morgan Street jail in Tampa and terminate at Orlando International Airport, with stops in Lakeland, Disney World, and at The Orlando/Orange County Convention Center.

The state must compete against 180 other areas that also want a slice of the stimulus money.

“We’re going to compete very well,” said Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa). “The Walt Disney World announcement today was a great boost, no other application, no other state will be able to say they such a public-private partnership that we have here in Florida.”

Rep. Castor and other rail proponents note that Florida has spent decades studying high-speed rail, but has never built such a system. After spending tens of millions on research and engineering that have gone nowhere, that very research is being dusted off and attached to the state’s application.

“This corridor between Orlando and Tampa is ready to go,” said Christine Burdick with the Tampa Downtown Partnership. “We have one of the most real shovel-ready projects.”

Trains could be running within five year if the plan is approved, the state said.

Backers guessed that fares will be $20 each way per person.

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