1. Transportation

Brightline submits sole proposal to launch Tampa to Orlando passenger rail service

A Brightline train heading from West Palm Beach to Miami pulls in at the service's station in Fort Lauderdale in August. Brightline has submitted the sole proposal in response to a Florida Department of Transportation request for proposals to create Tampa to Orlando passenger rail service. RICHARD DANIELSON  |  Times
A Brightline train heading from West Palm Beach to Miami pulls in at the service's station in Fort Lauderdale in August. Brightline has submitted the sole proposal in response to a Florida Department of Transportation request for proposals to create Tampa to Orlando passenger rail service. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
Published Nov. 8, 2018

TAMPA — State transportation officials on Wednesday received one proposal to run an intercity passenger train from Orlando to Tampa, and it came from Brightline, the company that proposed creating the route in the first place.

Brightline already runs a rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach, with plans to extend the line to Orlando by 2021.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected federal funding for high-speed rail on Interstate 4 in 2011. But this summer he agreed to have the state consider proposals from any interested company after Brightline said it wanted to create an Orlando-to-Tampa leg without using taxpayer dollars. The company proposed running its trains along Interstate 4, leasing land owned by the state and the Central Florida Expressway Authority.

Brightline's business model pairs city-to-city rail service with high-end real estate development. In August, seeing that combination dazzled a Tampa delegation during a tour of the company's South Florida projects. Publicly, the company has said it proposes a Tampa destination between downtown and Ybor City.

"We are excited about our proposal to connect Orlando and the Tampa Bay region and will await next steps from FDOT and the selection committee," Brightline's senior vice president for corporate affairs Ben Porritt said in a statement emailed to the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday.

TRACK RECORD: Brightline's combination of rail and development in Miami makes believers of Tampa leaders

In Miami, Brightline selected the Overtown area near downtown for its MiamiCentral project: 1.6 million square feet of development, with two office towers, two apartment towers, 130,000 square feet of stores and restaurants and a train station. Financing for the development was two-thirds private equity, one-third private activity bonds.

In May, it started running a rail service with limited stops between downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The trains are new, quiet, with roomy seats and robust WiFi, and they move at up to 79 mph, or roughly twice as fast as traffic on Interstate 95. The company says the service makes money because, unlike commuter rail, it has fewer stops and less need for staff and equipment.

Brightline's Miami station also includes connections to Miami-Dade's Metrorail and its free electric Metromover line. The density of non-car mobility options helped developers attract Ernst & Young to one of its office towers.

In Tampa, Brightline has scouted sites for potential terminals near downtown, including three that could put the train and its development plans within walking distance of the proposed Rays stadium on the southern edge of Ybor City:

• The Tampa Park Apartments, owned by a nonprofit group led by Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper publisher S. Kay Andrews. The future of the complex has been thrown into doubt after it this summer failed its fourth inspection in four years. As a result, some renters are being moved to Section 8 housing, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to withdraw rent subsidies for more than half the units.

• The old N Morgan Street jail site, owned by the Florida Department of Transportation. It has been considered as a rail station site several times in the past.

• Tampa Union Station, owned by the city of Tampa, which currently handles Amtrak's Silver Service.

• The 7.6-acre GasWorx property near the proposed Rays stadium. The Rays want a parking garage built there for their new ballpark, but GasWorx owner Darryl Shaw has said there may be space for other development, too.

The Florida Department of Transportation has named a three-member technical review committee to determine whether Brightline's proposal meets the requirements the agency outlined in its request for proposals on June 22.

Their recommendation will go to a selection committee of high-ranking transportation officials, who are scheduled to make a decision on Nov. 28.

MORE: Go here for more Business News

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


  1. "Lefty Lucy, Righty Tighty?", Siomara Bridges-Mata, 32, asks her coworkers as they assemble one of 900 bikes Friday when Amalie Arena transformed into Santa's Bike Shop. Bridges-Mata volunteered with Frameworks of Tampa Bay, Inc. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]
    Local nonprofit Onbikes organizes the annual bike build to provide bicycles to kids in the community
  2. Service dog Eleanor Rigby unexpectedly gave birth to eight puppies at Tampa International Airport as her human family was waiting near gate F81 to board a flight to Philadelphia in May 2018. The airport is getting ready to add pet-relief areas at its airsides for service dogs. (EMILY NIPPS | Tampa International Airport) [Tampa International Airport]
    Work on the new amenities is expected to be completed by next July.
  3. This Wednesday, June 21, 2017, file photo shows the building that houses the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco. Uber acknowledged more than 3,000 sexual assaults occurred during U.S. Uber rides in 2018, the company said in a long-awaited safety report. [ERIC RISBERG  |  AP]
    That figure includes 229 rapes across the company’s 1.3 billion rides.
  4. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. [LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower]
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  5. The Cross-Bay Ferry cruises along the Vinoy Yacht Basin as it heads toward Tampa. The Vinoy condominiums can be seen in the background. The city hopes to attract more vessels for entertainment and tourism to the downtown waterfront. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
    Most of the increase is tied to an additional round-trip sailing on Sundays.
  6. The intersection at Seminole Boulevard and East and West Bay Drive forbids drivers from turning right, even on a green light. [FDOT]
    The intersection at Seminole Boulevard and the East/West Bay Drive is the only one in the district where drivers are restricted on green-light turns.
  7. Abiona Adadevoh addresses the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board Monday about an attack last month on bus driver Schnaider Prophete. Prophete, center, was saved bus bus rider John Phelps, right, when a passenger attacked him with mace and a box cutter. [Caitlin Johnston]
    The agency has installed safety shields to protect operators on about 80 percent of its fleet so far.
  8. A Brightline passenger train passes by on Wednesday in Oakland Park, Fla. After Richard Branson announced his Virgin Group would partner with Brightline, Florida's new higher-speed passenger rail service, a train whisked the British billionaire, VIPs and journalists from Miami to West Palm Beach in just over an hour and then back, with no problems. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) [BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP]
    An Associated Press analysis of Federal Railroad Administration data shows about one fatality for every 29,000 miles traveled.
  9. In this April 24 file photo, American Airlines aircraft are shown parked at their gates at Miami International Airport in Miami. A woman demanding a larger seat on an American Airlines flight is in custody after faking a medical condition that prompted the pilot to head back to Pensacola. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) [WILFREDO LEE  |  AP]
    The woman wanted a larger seat on an American Airlines flight.
  10. Herbert Hayden, front, got help cleaning up his mobile home from people he met on the bus. Then they formed a lasting friendship. From left are bus driver Barbara Irizarry and riders Judy Martin and Hopeton Johnson.  "We're a family now," Martin said. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Three friends who met on Route 11 stepped off the bus to help an older passenger whose home maintenance had gotten away from him.