The federal government wants people to be able to ride the rails on a high-speed train between Tampa and Orlando and will kick in $15.9 million to Brightline Florida LLC to try to make it happen.
The federal grant, announced Thursday, will pay for half the preliminary engineering costs for the planned 67-mile, Tampa-to-Orlando train route along the Interstate 4 corridor. Brightline, a privately owned passenger service provider, will match the grant award.
“We know that the traffic along I-4 continues to this day and providing other options for travel is going to be so important to the people of Florida,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose. “When it comes to this corridor we know that there’s a ridership level that exists there and a potential ridership level that exists there so that makes this project an exciting one for us.”
Bose, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu announced $368 million in grants for 46 projects nationally through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.
Another project in Florida received an $8.3 million grant. The Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad will replace approximately 70,000 ties, install approximately 14,300 new ties and repair 60 at-grade crossings between Jacksonville and Pensacola.
Brightline operates passenger service between Miami and West Palm Beach. A second phase, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, is under construction and expected to be open this year. The third segment, between Orlando and Tampa, is projected to be operating before the end of the decade.
When completed, the South Florida to Orlando train ride is expected to take approximately two hours and travel at a top speed of 125 mph, according to Brightline’s web site.
In Tampa, the proposed downtown station would be located at the intersection of Nick Nuccio Parkway and Nebraska Avenue. At the eastern end of the route two stations are planned — one serving Disney and other attractions adjacent to the I-4 corridor and a newly built station at Orlando International Airport.
The Brightline Orlando-to-Tampa project will be eligible for future grants, said Buttigieg and Bose. President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law nearly tripled the funding for the rail infrastructure program, and $1 billion will be available annually for each of the next five years.
The grants are intended to bolster passenger service, increase supply chain resilience, and improve safety to help create jobs and economic growth, the federal Department of Transportation said in a released statement.