It will be at least five years before SunRail trains connect with Orlando International Airport because there is no source of funding for the estimated $100 million it will cost to build the connection, the Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported.
Despite that, SunRail officials are looking at a Orlando Utilities Commission-owned spur, which runs alongside airport property and could be expanded to two tracks, as a possibility for a rail link between the airport and the commuter rail system, the newspaper reported.
“This is a startup commuter-rail system. It’s going to evolve over time,” the newspaper quoted Steve Olson, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, as saying.
As part of the 12-stop, 32-mile first phase, trains will operate starting next year between DeBary, north of Orlando’s city center, and Sand Lake Road in Orlando. The route more-or-less parallels the busy Interstate 4 corridor and connects four Central Florida counties.
The project is expected to cost more than $1 billion, and a mix of local, state and federal funds are covering costs to buy right-of-way, make infrastructure upgrades and purchase rolling stock. The SunRail tracks were previously owned by CSX.
The second phase, which calls for five more station stops and an extension of the line to 61.5 miles in length, was originally scheduled to open in 2016. However, according to various media reports, the status of the second phase remains in limbo because of an uncertainty of federal dollars.
“The administration has to decide how much they want to put toward transportation projects; that’s entirely up to the president; we’ll see. If the president doesn’t act, we do have a fallback position,” WFTV-TV quoted U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., as saying.
“We’re competing against 20 other metropolitan areas that all want advanced transportation systems. We’ve got to be unified; we’ll do that,” Mica said, according to the station’s report. “Where there’s a will, there’s hopefully a way.”