TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is getting a closer look today at a privately owned rail service that could eventually connect Florida cities to each other.
- Mayor Bob Buckhorn leading a group visiting Brightline high-speed rail today in South Florida
- Proposed Phase 2 Brightline project would connect Tampa and Orlando
- Brightline officials examining locations for proposed railway
Phase 2 of the Brightline train project would bring a rail line to Tampa.
Brightline, which operates high-speed rail in South Florida, confirmed this summer that it has submitted an unsolicited bid to lease property owned by the state and the Central Florida Expressway Authority to build a high-speed train along Interstate 4.
The Phase 2 project would run the high-speed train between Orlando and downtown Tampa.
Brightline parent company All Aboard Florida is getting an early start by submitting an unsolicited bid to lay tracks for high-speed service between the sister cities.
In the past year, private rail service Brightline launched a route linking West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Work is underway to extend the link from West Palm Beach, north to Orlando with a stop at the intermodal station at Orlando International Airport.
Today, Buckhorn and officials with Tampa International Airport, Raymond James Financial, the Tampa Bay Rays and the development team behind Water Street Tampa, are in south Florida riding the Brightline rails between Miami and West Palm Beach.
"We want to go see what it looks like," Buckhorn said. "We want to ride it, we want to touch it, we want to feel it. Then we can start imagining the potential impact not only of the potential rail service but of the development around the transit stops."
Any likely Tampa route would include the existing Interstate 4 rail corridor designed for the high-speed rail project for pitched eight years ago.
Gov. Rick Scott rejected more than $2 billion in federal funds for that rail project in 2011. At that time, Scott said it would have exposed Florida taxpayers to millions of dollars of costs for decades. This month, the governor said he supports All Aboard Florida's plans to construct a line to Tampa and called it an "exciting opportunity."
Meanwhile, Buckhorn said these are first steps towards high-speed rail in Tampa and that it will be important for voters in November to consider a referendum that would designate money for all local transit.
Buckhorn added that for any longterm rail success, it would be imperative to be able to move people around the city once they step off the train.
In the meantime, Brightline officials continue to look at potential Tampa-Orlando route locations. Brightline parent company All Aboard Florida is getting an early start by submitting an unsolicited bid to lay tracks for high-speed service between the sister cities.
In the past year, Brightline launched the route linking West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Work is underway to extend the link from West Palm Beach, north to Orlando with a stop at the intermodal station at Orlando International Airport.
The total project for service between Orlando and South Florida is an estimated $3 billion.