CORAL GABLES — A private company said Thursday that it plans to develop a passenger train line connecting Orlando and South Florida by 2014.
Florida East Coast Industries, or FECI, said in a news release that the $1 billion project will use the 200-mile rail corridor it owns between Miami and Cocoa, and it will include construction of 40 miles of new track to link it to Orlando.
The project has been dubbed All Aboard Florida. Developers envision the service eventually expanded to link Tampa and Jacksonville. The trip between Miami and Orlando is expected to take about three hours. According to Google Maps, the average driving trip going the speed limit takes about four hours, not factoring in traffic.
FECI spokeswoman Christine Barney said passenger rail has been an issue in Florida for decades but residents have always seemed reluctant to use public funds to support various projects that have been proposed.
The proposal comes barely a year after Gov. Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail in Florida.
"All Aboard Florida offers a different approach," Barney said. "It will be privately owned, privately operated and privately maintained. There will be no risk to taxpayers."
The Coral Gables-based company said construction and operation of the line will create thousands of jobs. The company is estimating about 6,000 direct jobs needed to construct the system and more than 1,000 more jobs to operate and maintain it once it's finished. The company is also touting new potential economic development opportunities along the line.
FECI said the rail service can potentially take millions of vehicles off Florida's roadways, resulting in a reduction in auto emissions.
The company said it would be working in depth with local, state and federal officials as well as communities along the route. In the coming months, it will perform ridership, engineering and environmental studies.