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FTA, Florida officials mark SunRail's opening

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Florida officials yesterday marked the opening of the first phase of the SunRail commuter-rail line in central Florida.

SunRail launches passenger service today. The first phase of the 32-mile line will connect residents of Volusia, Seminole and Orange counties with downtown Orlando. The line also will link to Amtrak and LYNX bus service in downtown Orlando, improving transfers to the free bus rapid transit system and to other buses that serve greater Orlando, which will significantly expand transit options and connect thousands of residents to jobs and other economic opportunities throughout Central Florida, FTA officials said in a press release.

"We applaud central Florida's vision and support for a safe, efficient and connected transportation network that gives more than 2 million residents a convenient and reliable alternative to traffic congestion on Interstate 4," said FTA Deputy Administrator McMillan. "SunRail will connect residents from DeBary to Sand Lake Road with the jobs and services they need, while removing barriers to success throughout the region."

The line's construction created thousands of jobs, according to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In addition, the project spurred a $250 million public-private investment in a 176-acre Health Village at Florida Hospital, where a new SunRail station will enable thousands of medical researchers, hospital employees, patients and their families to take transit to work or obtain medical care, FDOT officials said.

Across the entire line, more than two dozen retail, office, government, and residential development projects within a 10-minute walk of new SunRail stations are planned or under way – representing about $1.6 billion in public and private investments altogether.

The FTA provided $178.6 million toward the initial segment's construction through its Capital Investment Grant Program, also known as New Starts. The line is considered to be the first phase of what is expected to be a 61-mile commuter-rail line. In March, the FTA announced President Barack Obama's fiscal-year 2015 budget included a recommendation to provide additional funding to extend the line 17.2 miles south into Osceola County.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/1/2014