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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

September 2008

Rail News: Passenger Rail

Commuter Rail Could Be Coming Soon to Orlando

By Angela Cotey, Associate Editor

Last month, the Federal Transit Administration gave approval to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to enter final design for the Central Florida Commuter Rail project.

The 61-mile line would run between DeLand, Orlando, downtown Kissimmee and Poinciana, providing a transportation alternative to area commuters.

The region’s population is expected to more than double during the next 50 years. Between 2000 and 2004 alone, more than 200,000 additional vehicles were registered in central Florida. In addition, the area’s tourism industry continues to attract about 50 million visitors annually.

The line will run along existing CSX Transportation right of way. FDOT will fund and operate the line for the first seven years of operation. Beyond that, the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission — which was created by FDOT in August 2007 to serve in an advisory role — will assume operations and local governments will provide operating funds, says Tawny Olore, FDOT’s project manager for the Central Florida Commuter Rail project.

Prime location

In August 2006, FDOT signed an agreement in principle with CSXT to purchase the right of way.

“We’ve always looked at this as a good transit corridor,” says Olore. “It’s been around since the 1800s and the Orlando metropolitan area grew up around it, so it goes through every one of our major Orlando suburbs.”

The parties, which expect to close on the transaction in early 2009, already have hammered out an operating agreement under which FDOT will dispatch all trains, including freight, and conduct all line maintenance for the first seven years. The commission then will assume control. Passenger trains will run on the line 19 hours per day, including a 12-hour passenger-train-only window; freight trains will have exclusive access to the line five hours daily.

Fifty percent of the $615 million project will be funded with federal dollars (FDOT hopes to obtain a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the FTA by September 2009). In addition, state and local governments will each provide a 25 percent match.

FDOT plans to complete the project in phases, concentrating first on a 32-mile corridor between DeBary and Orlando. The agency will construct 18 miles of double track, build 12 stations and add a new signal system. Phase I is expected to be complete by 2011. Phase II — which would run north to DeBary and south to Poinciana — is scheduled to be complete in 2013 and calls for adding five stations, a new signal system and 29 miles of double tracking.

FDOT will operate self-propelled diesel-multiple units on the line. The agency already has purchased five of the double-decker vehicles.

Now, FDOT expects to enter into a contract with a design-build firm and soon apply for the FFGA.

— Angela Cotey


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