Brightline Getting Pushback Over High Speed Rail Network
If you’ve been following along with MickeyBlog you’ll know that a high-speed rail route is currently under construction that will connect South Florida with Orlando and eventually Tampa with stops at Orlando International Airport and stops at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.
However, Brightline which is overseeing the project is getting pushback from the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s governing board, local business groups and residents regarding the proposed Orlando-to-Tampa route.
Brightline rail line is considering two possible 16.7 mile routes that will take passengers from Orlando International Airport. According to the Orlando Business Journal, one of the routes follows State Road 417 and another heads west on Taft-Vineland Road to connect to International Drive and the Orange Country Convention Center.
In either scenario there is a proposed top at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.
However, negotiations which were expected to be completed over the Summer have hit a bit of snag. Expressway Authority Board Members including Jay Madara, (who is also senior vice president of the PGA Tour) as well as Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings voiced concerns over the right-of-way for the route and the lack of information when it comes to alternative routes and proposed paths.
According to the OBJ, Brightline has set forth estimates that the Taft-Vineland Route will cost $2.12 billion and the State Road 417 route an estimated $1.03 route. This makes 417 the preferred option.
Demings said that additional funding would need to be acquired to pay for the route if the more expensive Taft-Vineland route is picked. . “It’s fascinating to have a discussion about other route, but someone is going to have to pay,” Demings said. There is a tourist tax in the county but unfortunately there are not enough funds as of yet generated through the tax of supplement the project.
However, the Camber of Commerce is saying that Brightline is over-estimating the cost of the first route even through it would be a better route for the county. In a letter the Chamber said, “We believe that this route is both efficient, inclusive and, according to our financial analysis, is not nearly as costly as Brightline is projecting.”
According to Brightline the Taft-Vineland Route would be in excess of $2 billion. but VHB estimates put it in at $1.01- $1.23 billion.
According to the piece in the Orlando Business Journal, the 417 route is also raising concerns for the community due to the number of properties (3,000) that would be impacted by the route. This is in sharp contracts to the 23 parcels that would be affected by the Taft-Vineland Route.
Leading the opposition were residents of Hunter’s Creek which is a 25,000 residential community. The 417 route would cute through the community in order to reach Disney Springs. Michelle Ouimet, General Manager at Hunter’s Creek said, The draft of the agreement with Brightline “causes great concern with the Hunter’s Creek community,”
So in some ways its back to the drawing board for Brightline who must provide more details regarding the routes and the costs surrounding them. As the Business Journal points out, Brightline also only has until July 31st to negotiate details which also includes getting approval from the Florida Department of Transportation, Orlando Utilities Commission and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
As of going to print, the company has already finished over half of the proposed 170-mile route from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport. The service should start running by the end of next year or the beginning of 2023.
We’ll continue to follow this story closely. Readers are encouraged to check back for further news and updates!
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