A little more than a year ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott killed the state’s high-speed rail project when he returned federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail funds to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Now, a privately owned railroad has plans to implement passenger-rail service connecting Orlando and South Florida.
Today, Florida East Coast Industries Inc. (FECI) announced it plans to develop All Aboard Florida, a privately owned, operated and maintained passenger-rail service that would run 240 miles to Miami, Cocoa and Orlando. The service would operate along 200 miles of existing tracks between Miami and Cocoa, and along 40 miles of new track into Orlando. The system eventually could be expanded to include connections to Tampa and Jacksonville. The project will cost about $1 billion.
The company launched a feasibility study for the project several months ago, and an “investment-grade” ridership study and engineering work are under way, according to a press release. Now, FECI will begin to work with local, state and federal officials, as well as communities along the route.
Because the project currently is in what All Aboard Florida spokesperson Christine Barney terms the “due diligence” phase, FECI has not yet determined what type of trainsets it will need to purchase or what firm will operate the trains, she says. Once ridership and environmental reports are completed, the company will be able to issue a project timeline.
At least one date has been issued: FECI plans to launch All Aboard Florida in 2014, a timeframe that’s realistic because the majority of the service will operate along tracks already in service on the Florida East Coast Railway L.L.C. (FEC), Barney says.
The studies under way also will help FECI determine train speeds. The company plans to operate trains at top speeds of 100 mph to 110 mph, says Barney.
And while the line’s operations, maintenance and ownership will be “100 percent privately funded with no risk to the state,” Barney did not rule out the possibility of obtaining at least some public funds for the line’s construction.
“What, if any, minor participation from the state may be required is premature to say at this time,” she says.
The passenger-rail service won’t present any risk to FEC’s operations, either, says Barney.
“Florida East Coast is continuing to invest in the trade infrastructure and maintenance, and they are making a lot of investments at the Port of Miami and Port Everglades,” she says. “They will continue to build additional mainline capacity to handle additional freight growth, and freight capacity will not be negatively affected.”
All Aboard Florida would be designed to serve business travelers, as well as families and tourists. With stations proposed in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, passengers could connect with local transit services.
FECI owns and develops real estate and transportation-related businesses in the state of Florida, and owns FEC, a 351-mile freight railroad that operates along the state’s eastern coast and connects with South Florida ports.
— Angela Cotey
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