It’ll still be QUITE some time before anyone hops on a Brightline train to go from Orlando International Airport to Disney World, but some progress on this future transportation method is being made.
Last year, things came to a stop and decisions regarding the train’s route from the airport to Disney World were indefinitely delayed. But things have started to move forward and a special plan has been proposed that would include a shared space between Brightline and SunRail. Now, things look like they’re continuing to move forward.
A Quick Recap
Before we dive into the update, we wanted to provide a quick recap. Some time ago, it was announced that a Brightline train would connect Orlando International Airport and Disney World, with a station at Disney Springs. The train’s path will then continue to Tampa.
But what path will the train take from Orlando’s airport to Disney World? That is the big question. Two routes had previously been proposed — one that would piggyback on State Road 417 through Hunters Creek, and another route which would go along State Road 528 to International Drive.
Brightline preferred the State Road 417 route. That one had an estimated cost of $1.03 billion. The State Road 528 route was estimated to cost $2.1 billion, but it would go through I-Drive, a portion of Orlando that is home to lots of tourist attractions.
Various entities and organizations, including Universal Orlando Resort, began to push for the I-Drive route. Ultimately, back in July of 2021, the Central Florida Expressway Authority indefinitely delayed a decision about Brightline’s path from the airport to Disney World.
Thereafter, a possible solution arose. Following a number of meetings, a potential path emerged called the “Sunshine Corridor Program.” Under this program, there would be a corridor for SunRail’s commuter trains that would lead from the airport to SunRail’s existing north-south tracks. The path would then go through the Orange County Convention Center and south International Drive.
Brightline would lease the rights to use that east-west SunRail corridor, and then would be responsible for building its own tracks from Disney World to Tampa.
This option became more of a reality due to the passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021. The bill provides for billions to be spent in passenger and freight rail over the next several years.
But things aren’t done yet. Decisions still need to be made to lock down the exact path for funding applications, confirm that route, confirm the stations, invite Disney World and the Transportation Department into meetings to get everything set up, and then potentially tap into those federal funds to get things done.
So what is happening now?
According to The Orlando Business Journal, the Volusia County Council is planning to discuss this idea for a shared corridor with SunRail and Brightline. Their meeting is scheduled for May 3rd and it will focus on “forming a direction and the potential for a letter to the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission” regarding that Sunshine Corridor plan.
SunRail is the existing rail service in Florida. It operates over 49 miles and has 16 stations through Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties.
Volusia County has a seat on the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission. Representatives from the city of Orlando as well as Osceola, Orange, and Seminole counties are also on that Commuter Rail Commission.
That Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission will be meeting on May 5th, so the Volusia County Council will be meeting ahead of that. A spokesperson for Volusia County said it’s too early to comment. The agenda for the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission’s meeting has not yet been released.
As noted above, the Sunshine Corridor proposal would allow the “commuter rail system to operate seven days a week and share a corridor in the International Drive area along State Road 528.”
SunRail would connect with the Orlando Airport, the Orange County Convention Center, and Disney World. Brightline would lease the route and then connect its route over to Tampa.
So what happens next? Individuals will have to determine the costs for the corridor as well as any requirements that must be met to apply for grants.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings had said, “I am hopeful we can build a transportation system that meets the need of not only Orange County residents, but benefits all of Central Florida.”
Demings has also made comments about a potential for the train to travel along a route to Apopka. That’s tied with Orange County’s potential sales tax increase for transportation.
In November, this proposal will go before voters. If it’s approved, the penny sales tax increase is expected to “generate roughly $600 million per year to go toward transit and infrastructure improvements.”
On the SunRail side, responsibility for the system is being fully transferred from the Florida Department of Transportation to “the local government partners.” That’s expected to take place in 2024.
So things are moving forward, but they still have a ways to go. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for more updates on this situation and we’ll let you know what we find. Check back with us for all the latest news!
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Would you take the train from the airport to Disney World? Tell us in the comments!