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Brightline Trains in Florida
Brightline Continues Work on Miami to Orlando Fast Train Project
The Brightline railroad company currently operates trains from West Palm Beach to Miami, Florida. In addition it is in the process of building a rail line from West Palm Beach to Orlando that is expected to be completed in 2023. When completed this will allow high speed travel from Miami to Orlando by rail. Based on current estimates it will take about three hours of travel time by rail, but as new stations are being added along the way, this time will increase. Additionally, speed predictions have yet to be tested in real time with trains travelling through the heavily populated east coast corridor of Florida.
Brightline has been testing trains from West Palm Beach to Cocoa, FL at speeds up to 75mph. It can be assumed that testing will begin soon on the Cocoa to Orlando leg which is all new track and runs along side the Beachline Expressway (528). In a recent report to bondholders Brightline stated, "We will commence 125 mile per hour testing in February," the report added. Train service from South Florida to Orlando is expected to start in the second quarter of 2023, Brightline also stated in its latest report to bond holders.
Orlando Train Station Completed with two more planned.
The Orlando train station has been completed at the Orlando International Airport and is ready to start receiving passengers. Brightline intends to build two additional stations in the Orlando area as part of its planned extension toward Tampa. "One new station is expected to be located at the Orange County Convention Center and a second station is expected to be convenient to the I-Drive business community and multiple theme parks," the report stated. Those theme parks include SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, and Walt Disney World Resort, the report added.
Transportation Options for Miami to Orlando
Currently, travel from Miami to Orlando is limited to airlines, buses, and cars. Travel by car or express bus takes about four hours using the Florida Turnpike. Air travel time is about 45 minutes in the air but does not include early arrival for check in and security checks.
The cheapest method of transportation from Miami to Orlando is by bus which is around $39.00 a person. Next cheapest is travel by personal car, with gas and tolls. Next would be a rental car that would include rental fee, gas, and tolls. Air fare can run anywhere from $89 per person to $300 per person.
Early indications are that Brightline plans to charge $95 per person for a one way trip from Miami to Orlando. Thus, a family of four would spend $400 with arrival at a station at the Orlando International Airport. Local transportation would be additional cost.
It remains to be seen whether the billions invested in tracks and stations will ever be recovered even without consideration of the competition the railroad will be facing in the next ten years.
Longer term plans call for a link from the Orlando airport to somewhere in Tampa. Along the way their would be a stop at Disney Springs, right outside of Disney World. This will require agreements with the State of Florida for using right of way along the I-4 corridor. It will also depend on Brightline being able to raise the money needed. Present funding has utilized tax free bonds, in amounts over three billion dollars. Interest rates are now higher which means higher cost for any future funding. Also, raising money might not be easy without a significant improvement in Brightline's present financial performance.
Money Given Back
In the early days of former Governor Scott's administration, the US Government had offered $10 billion to the State of Florida to fund a mono rail from Tampa to Orlando. For some unknown reason, the money was turned down by Scott and was reallocated to the State of New York. Had that money been spent, Florida today would have a mono rail along that same corridor. It would have been finished about eight years ago. Now the traffic on I-4 between Orlando and Tampa is untenable despite past widening efforts. Any new railroad will be years away and depend on private funding which may not be available.
With the imminent advent of electric cars, busses, and trucks we can look forward to a cleaner environment. It is apparent that in the next ten years there will not only be electric vehicles dominating the roads, but self driving vehicles as well. This will increase automotive travel safety, reduce noise and air pollution, as well as negating the advantage of rail travel.
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