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Brightline-Virgin rail service looking at Disney station along proposed Tampa-to-Orlando route

Brightline has said little publicly about the idea, but did identify a planned future Disney station on a map submitted recently to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Published Jan. 4, 2019

TAMPA — Brightline, the Florida passenger train service soon to be known as Virgin Trains USA, plans a stop near Disney World along its proposed Orlando to Tampa route.

The company included a map showing a planned future station labeled "Disney" in a filing late last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Brightline-Virgin discloses details about cost, schedule, ridership, ticket prices

This does not come as a surprise. Brightline's proposal to the Florida Department of Transportation discussed putting a station near Celebration, where State Road 417 takes traffic from Interstate 4 to the Magic Kingdom and other Disney properties in the area.

"Brightline is considering a station and having early discussions with existing property owners in the area in which (State Road) 417 connects with I-4," the company said in its proposal to create the Orlando-to-Tampa service. That said, the interchange is several miles from the main park.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment, and a Brightline spokesman said Securities and Exchange Commission rules prohibit the company from discussing information disclosed in its filing. Last month, Brightline president Patrick Goddard mentioned Disney in passing during a presentation to the Central Florida Expressway Authority, but more as a promotional partner than as a potential stop.

"We've done a lot of experience-focused programs as well as accommodating commuters and business travelers," he told the authority's board members. "We've got the buzzer beater train (to Miami Heat NBA games). We're right beside the American Airlines Arena (in Miami), so we imagine doing things like that right here in Orlando with the Magic, collaborating with the large and diverse attractions like Disney and Universal."

Brightline hopes to launch its Tampa-to-Orlando service in 2021 and is about a third of the way into a 90-day period during which it is negotiating with the Florida Department of Transportation and Central Florida Expressway Authority for leases on rights of way to put its trains in the medians of I-4 and State Road 417. Officials said it may be necessary to extend the deadline for reaching those agreements.

"It is a heavy lift to have that completed in 90 days," Central Florida Expressway Authority executive director Laura Kelley told her board on Dec. 13. "It's likely we may need an extension."

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times