High speed rail service is coming to Tampa! Yes, at the same time that air taxis are being discussed, and the future of our year-round ferry service is still up in the air (or floating on choppy waters), Brightline is moving at a modest pace to bring a station and service from Tampa to Orlando. Listen, Tampa residents love train, or at least a streetcar. Ridership for the Tampa streetcar surpassed 100,000 in April, and is on pace to serve more than 1 million riders this fiscal year.
Reps. Darren Soto, Dan Webster, Stephanie Murphy, Gus Bilirakis and Val Demings announced the Central Florida region has received a grant award of up to $15,875,000 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant Program. The funding will go toward Central Florida’s Sunshine Corridor and Brightline’s proposed Tampa to Orlando intercity passenger rail project. The grant award, combined with up to $15,875,000 in contributing funds from Brightline, will result in a $31,750,000 total investment. The grant application received substantial community and bipartisan support.
Brightline bringing high speed rail service to Tampa
How will Brightline use the federal funding? The grant award will support the preliminary engineering activities and environmental approvals required to construct an intercity passenger rail system between Orlando International Airport and Tampa. The activities will include completing 15% and 30% engineering design for a completely grade-separated, mostly double-tracked railway built within the right-of-way of the I-4 median and other existing transportation corridors.
Brightline, the nation’s only provider of modern, eco-friendly intercity passenger rail service, is currently operating between Miami and West Palm Beach and constructing an extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando, which is expected to be complete at the end of 2022 and carry passengers in 2023. An extension to Tampa is the next step in connecting 70 percent of the state’s population by Brightline.
“The Sunshine Corridor is a comprehensive, ambitious transportation solution for Central Florida. It represents the missing link in Brightline’s plan to connect Orlando and Tampa with modern, eco-friendly, intercity passenger rail,” said Brightline Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger. “New, innovative transportation solutions will provide an economic boost to Central Florida and makes the state even more attractive to businesses and future residents.”
Improving the nation’s infrastructure, offering transit solutions
“Thrilled to see that Brightline’s proposed Tampa to Orlando intercity passenger rail project will receive funding thanks to the Department of Transportation’s CRISI grant. As a result of this administration’s efforts to improve our nation’s infrastructure, Central Floridians will be one step closer to easily accessing Orlando International Airport, our beautiful theme parks, and Tampa,” said Congressman Darren Soto. “I was proud to be a part of this bipartisan request with Reps. Demings, Murphy, Bilirakis, and Webster to keep Central Florida moving and look forward to the future of transportation in our state.”
Immediate access to Orlando from Tampa, and vice versa, could provide major economic impacts for both bustling cities. The train service could ease congestion on I-4, provide easy access for Orlando residents wanting to catch a Lightning game or experience the Riverwalk, and let Tampa residents take a breezy ride up to Universal or Disney. This kind of connectivity is essential in the state of Florida.
“Transportation – moving people and goods – is a vital element of Florida’s economy. As a senior member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, engineer and longtime advocate for infrastructure ensuring our state has the resources needed is one of my priorities,” said Congressman Dan Webster. “This grant will help ensure this rail line that connects Central Floridians and our tourists to key points across our region is operating efficiently and effectively.”
An eco-friendly rail system starts to connect Florida
“This federal grant will help build a modern and environmentally-friendly rail system between Orlando and Tampa,” said Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. “It’s great news for Central Florida families and businesses and for visitors to our thriving region. Orlando is a world-class city and it deserves a world-class transportation system—and this grant will bring us one step closer to making that a reality.”
Central Florida is projected to experience significant growth in population, employment and tourism over the next decade, which will increase the demands and congestion on current roadways. Currently, travel between Tampa and Orlando is mainly by I-4, which recent studies identified as the deadliest road in America. Intercity passenger rail is a vital tool to help the state manage future growth under constrained conditions that limit the ability to expand highways.