Orlando International Airport Could Link with Private Intercity Rail

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Orlando International Airport (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Orlando International Airport officials are working out a deal over a private rail company's proposed commercial rail service to Miami.

The arrival of the intercity rail service -- called "All Aboard Florida" -- could mean the airport has to speed up plans to build a new train station.

A rail connection has been part of the airport's master plan for three decades, but with high-speed rail scrapped last year and no firm plans for a direct link to the SunRail commuter train, a private company may be the first to roll to the airport.

Florida East Coast Industries plans to create a passenger rail service from Miami to Orlando (a distance of about 240 miles) and it wants to link up with the airport by 2015.

Orlando International Airport executive director Phil Brown says they hope to have details worked out over the next two months.

“We have to come to a pretty rapid agreement on what it’s going to look like," he says, "where it’s going to come in, and who is going to be responsible for what parts of it."

Brown says the train station would be built at the site of the airport’s proposed South Terminal, and accommodate up to four rail systems -- including SunRail as well as All Aboard Florida.

"It's the same place where we envisioned a station for high speed rail," he said. "What's a little bit different is high-speed rail was coming from Tampa, this is coming from Miami, so there's a different access point."

The cost of the intermodal station and a new parking garage for rental cars has been pegged at $470 million.

To accommodate All Aboard Florida service, the airport would also have to fast-track construction of a people mover between the station and the North Terminal.

Whether the new South Terminal gets built or not depends on passenger numbers. Currently about 35 million people fly through the Orlando airport a year, and with some modifications the North terminal could take up to 45 million. International passengers numbers are growing, with an 8 per cent increase in April, but they only account for 10 per cent of the airport's customers.

Brown says an agreement would also have to be reached between the airport and airlines about who would shoulder which part of the cost of the proposed new passenger terminal.