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Federal grant supports Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail

Brightline train pulling into the station in West Palm Beach.

Photo by Jillian Cain

A $15.9 million federal grant will help Brightline start work on its proposed Tampa-to-Orlando intercity passenger rail project.

Brightline will match the grant from the Transportation Department’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program to fund the initial stages of the project, including early engineering activities and environmental approvals.

“Transportation — moving people and goods — is a vital element of Florida’s economy,” said Rep. Dan Webster (R-11th District). “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.”

Webster announced the grant June 1 with fellow Reps. Darren Soto (D-9th District), Stephanie Murphy (D-7th District), Gus Bilirakis (R-12th District) and Val Demings (D-10th District).

Brightline Florida is a high-speed rail line between West Palm Beach and Miami. The company is constructing an extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando, which is projected to carry passengers by next year.

“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,” Brightline Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger said. “New, innovative transportation solutions will provide an economic boost to Central Florida and make the state even more attractive to businesses and future residents.”

The proposed line would span approximately 67 miles at up to 125 mph. I-4, the main route between Tampa and Orlando, was named the deadliest road in America in a 2021 study by Teletrac. In addition, the population in Central Florida is expected to increase by 3 million over the next decade.

“Providing other options for travel is going to be so important to the people of Florida,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose. “When it comes to this corridor, we know that there’s a ridership level that exists there and a potential ridership level that exists there, so that makes this project an exciting one for us.”

The first iteration of this project, referred to as the Florida High-Speed Corridor, was proposed in 2002. It was vetoed and recirculated until 2009, when the plans were revived. But Gov. Rick Scott rejected the federal funds for construction before the project could proceed in 2011.

The newly dubbed Tampa to Orlando Sunshine Corridor would support increased tourism and employment in both cities.

“Our community is the heartland of tourism in America, and Brightline’s plan to connect Miami and Tampa to Orlando’s tourism centers will help supercharge our continued growth and attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Demings said.

The extension to Tampa represents Brightline’s next step in connecting 70% of the Florida population, according to a statement from the company.

Brightline recently announced stops in Aventura, Boca Raton and Port Miami.


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