Writer: Alejandro Sanchez
2 min read December 2021— On Dec. 2 Brightline leaders are scheduled to address Polk County’s Transportation Planning Organization to provide more details about the plan to extend the high-speed rail from Orlando to Tampa.
In November, all five county commissioners in Polk County voted to submit a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of the initiative.
“There will be a stop somewhere in Polk County,”Commissioner George Lindsey told The Ledger. “It’s premature to pick the location yet, but wherever it goes it will benefit all of Polk County. We want to encourage this. We are saying, ‘Come on through and we will work with you the best we can.'”
Today, Brightline is constructing a station at Orlando International Airport to expand its services from South to Central Florida, a project that is set to be completed in 2022. The privately-owned rail is expected to connect West Palm Beach and Orlando in approximately 2 hours at a speed of 125 mph.
To construct a rail in the Orlando-Tampa corridor, Brigthtline is aiming to obtain $31.8 million through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve the reliability, safety, and efficiency of intercity passenger and freight rail. The letter approved by Polk County commissioners will be included in the application for the grant. Additionally, the company is also planning to use $15.9 million in private funding.
“Brightline has always looked to connect the State of Florida with modern, eco-friendly intercity rail. Our plans to expand to Tampa will create jobs and generate economic impact while integrating into public systems with the objective of connecting guests to the people and places they want to go. Our priority is to build meaningful connections to the state’s most populated region,” a Brightline spokesperson wrote in a statement.
According to the letter drafted by the Polk county commissioners, in the next decade the population of Central Florida will grow by 3 million people, making the construction of new infrastructure “vital” to serve the transportation’s needs of the region. The letter also explains that the congestion and accidentality of I-4 (the highways that connect both cities) can be reduced with the introduction of alternative forms of transportation.
“We’re a lot closer today than we ever have been so we can’t let this opportunity get by,” said Commissioner Lindsey. “Any time we can expand the variety and type of transportation through Polk County is a benefit for all of our citizens”.
As the support for the project gets momentum, Universal and SeaWorld are also advocating to have an expansion of Brightline from Orlando to Tampa.