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Private Rail Plans Spur Talks About Airport Connectivity


Ambitious plans by two private companies bring rail to Orlando International Airport could help fast-track a connection with the SunRail commuter train. At a Metroplan Orlando meeting Wednesday transportation planners discussed adapting a freight line now used by coal trains to use as an airport connector.

Metroplan Orlando executive director Harry Barley told airport, city and county representatives at the meeting, he wants to see a coherent regional rail system that’s easy to use.

A study is already underway to examine potential connections with the airport, but Barley says it may be quicker to use a rail spur that services OUC’s Stanton power plant.

“That’s clearly the easiest and fastest to do, because of that spur being in place, and perhaps reframing this as an extension of the existing SunRail project.” 

The rail spur branches off the SunRail line between the Sand Lake Road station and Meadow Woods station, and runs past the south of the airport.

Barley says some new rail would have to be laid to connect the frieght line with the airport's planned intermodal station and to double the track in some places. Preliminary estimates put the cost of adapting the rail spur for passengers at around $104 million, including a train set.

Barley says an analysis of the rail spur will examine whether to bring SunRail all the way to the airport or run a separate shuttle train on the line.

"A shuttle will probably be less expensive, however, there's the drawback associated with people having to get off one train and onto another," he says. 

"All that would be subject to review and all that would be subject to approval by our board before we go too far. This was a preliminary conversation to look at some options on how we can meet a need which we know is going to be there."

Local authorities have been considering a transit connection to the airport for some time, but there's now added urgency to the discussions following high profile rail plans announced by two private companies in recent months.

One private company, Florida East Coast Industries, wants to bring rail from Miami to the airport by 2015.

Barley says linking SunRail to the airport would increase its ridership, and also "it would help to complement this tremendous private investment that's being made that would connect us to South Florida."

American Maglev Technology has also unveiled plans to build an elevated magnetically propelled train linking the airport with the convention center. Harry Barley says the project "could be very exciting, but that's a new technology and the implications need to be understood."

 

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