Well, while some of the plans for this train had hit a BIG stumbling block when it comes to train routes, it looks like things might be CHANGING!
What’s Been Going On?
Back in July of 2021, we shared that a decision on what route the Brightline train would take from the airport to Disney World had been delayed indefinitely.
Previously, 2 main routes were under consideration. One would piggyback on State Road 417 through Hunters Creek. The other route would go along State Road 528 to International Drive.
The State Road 417 route is the one that Brightline preferred and had been estimated to cost around $1.03 billion in terms of construction. The State Road 528 route, on the other hand, was estimated to cost $2.1 billion, but would go through I-Drive, a massive area full of tourist attractions.
Universal Orlando Resort and others had been pushing for this I-Drive route, as it could potentially benefit those businesses and many more along the way.
But, as we mentioned, in July of 2021, the Central Florida Expressway Authority agreed unanimously to indefinitely delay a decision about Brightline’s ability to use the State Road 417 path.
Since then, we’ve seen a number of updates about Brightline’s progress in Florida, but those have mainly been about construction around the airport or from its other Florida stops to the airport.
In fact, the Orlando Sentinel shares that Brightline has already reached the final months of construction on its path that will go from South Florida to the Orlando International Airport. Service to the airport along that extension is expected to start next year (2023).
But what about news related to the path from the airport to Disney World and beyond? Well, we’ve finally got a BIG update on that!
A Possible Brightline Route to Disney
According to the Orlando Sentinel, there has been a change when it comes to Brightline’s potential route from the airport to Disney World. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has hosted dozens of private meetings during the past few months with Brightline, Universal Orlando, and more, to try and reach some kind of resolution regarding this path.
The Sentinel notes that from those meetings a new idea has emerged. The project is now evolving in a way that would actually result in the construction of a corridor for SunRail commuter trains.
SunRail is an existing rail service that moves people through the region. According to its website, it currently operates over 49 miles and has 16 stations through Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties.
Under this new plan, there is a push to build a corridor for SunRail’s commuter trains that would lead from the airport to SunRail’s existing north-south tracks. Then it would lead to 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.
What has caused things to change so that this particular plan is being pushed? Well, according to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021 changed things and allowed people to “see a funding scenario that supported the route to I-Drive and the convention center.”
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a federal act that was passed in 2021. According to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, this legislation allows for “historic investment that will modernize our roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, airports, broadband, and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.”
The bill specifically provides for $66 billion for passenger and freight rail to be spent over the next 5 years (as well as $39 billion for public transit, and billions more for other projects).
A meeting was even held in Washington, D.C. on March 30th and was attended by Orlando, Universal, Brightline, and more. Dyer shared that connecting SunRail to the airport would also “obligate SunRail to expand service to run more often, later into the night and on weekends.”
According to U.S. Representative Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) “a decision must be made by summertime. Those first announcements for rail and for highways are going to be big ones, the biggest in the nation. We want to make sure there is consensus locally because it’s so competitive.”
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has said that “discussions have wrapped” around the vision that is being called the “Sunshine Corridor Program.”
Again, this program would have a track route going west from the airport to a “new transfer station along SunRail’s tracks.” Then it would follow some SunRail tracks and “veer to an alignment along Taft Vineland Road and State Road 528 to arrive at the convention center.” The route would then follow I-4 to south International Drive.
According to Demings, what needs to happen next is for individuals to lock down the path for funding applications, confirm the route, confirm the stations, and then invite the Transportation Department and Disney World to upcoming meetings. The Infrastructure Act could allow the project to tap into some federal funds to make its plans into a reality.
The International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce is, according to their President and CEO, “very supportive” of the Sunshine Corridor Program.
Just how often will trains go down this new proposed path? Well, the plan calls for SunRail to have a train run “every 15 minutes between the airport and south I-Drive.” Brightline, on the other hand, would run a train in “both directions every hour between the airport and Tampa from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.”
This is all still in development and is subject to change, but it could mark a big step forward for this project. We’ll keep an eye out for more updates and let you know what we find.
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The post The Airport Train’s Path to Disney World Could FINALLY Be Coming Together first appeared on the disney food blog.