Brightline has been planning a passenger rail from south Florida up to Orlando International Airport for years and work has been ongoing. Now, the plans for the rail line to build tracks connecting the airport to Walt Disney World and Tampa have been delayed.
Brightline had planned on building a passenger rail beside State Road 417, passing through Hunter’s Creek and along Interstate 4 to Walt Disney World. Over the last year proponents of International Drive, Universal Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center have protested that route.
Yesterday, the Central Florida Expressway Authority agreed unanimously to delay indefinitely a decision over whether to allow Brightline Trains to build a rail on SR 417. Representatives of the International Drive tourism strip and the Hunter’s Creek residential community really pushed for the Authority to deny access to Brightline as they have a separate preferred route for the rail line. The vote finally came after 3.5 hours of discussion.
Brightline estimates the original plan to cost $1 billion. If they are denied access to SR 417, they will need to consider a significantly more costly route. The route preferred by the International Drive supporters would cost $1.7 billion. The International Drive supporters presented their corridor as the region’s powerhouse of theme parks, hotels, related businesses, jobs and tourists.
Universal Orlando has even offered to donate 17 acres for the rail corridor. “We will put our money and our resources where our mouth is,” said John Sprouls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & Resorts.
“We have probably a few months left before Brightline gets to a critical place where there is no turning back,” said Christopher “C.J.” Maier, an expressway authority board member. A decision needs to be made soon regarding where Brightline will put the railway.
Brightline leaders don’t seem too worried about it though. “We’ve always found success by building a large and wide-ranging coalition of support, which was on display today,” said Christine Kefauver, Brightline’s senior vice president for corporate development. “Today’s resolution of support brings us one step closer to connecting Orlando and Tampa with Brightline’s modern, eco-friendly intercity rail service.”