Written by Carrie Elizabeth Bradon | The Florida Free Press
ORLANDO — As one of the most popular destinations in the nation, Orlando welcomed 75 million visitors in 2018; but while the state thrives off of tourism, the high rate of visitors necessitates innovative transportation solutions.
The highly anticipated Virgin Trains — formerly Brightline — Orlando expansion aims to simplify travel for guests arriving at Orlando International Airport’s South Intermodal Facility (ITF). It is also hoped that the rail will reduce tourism-related traffic on local roads.
On November 21, Brightline hosted a tour of their new facility at OIA. This facility and a portion of the railway will connect Orlando to South Florida. The train station in the airport’s south terminal will include routes to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
The Orlando to South Florida portion represents Phase 2 and requires 170 miles of new track before being completed. The route is expected to open in 2022.
While Phase 2 will ensure efficient transportation along the state’s east coast, a high-speed option — suitable for commuters — between Orlando and Tampa has been desired for years.
According to Orlando Weekly, a previously planned high-speed rail that would have run from Orlando to Tampa was blocked by Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida), despite receiving support from voters.
Virgin Trains USA is now in the process of proposing a rail line that would run from Orlando International Airport to Downtown Tampa. Plans for this route include a stop at Disney World, benefitting the state’s tourism industry, while also decreasing tourism-related traffic.
Details regarding station locations and dates for project commencement and completion of the Orlando to Tampa rail have yet to be revealed. Previous plans from Virgin Trains USA, however, estimated that a one-way ride would be approximately one hour in length and would cost $35.
This is part of an ongoing series investigating transportation innovation in the state of Florida.