(Orlando -- WMFE) Central Florida faces a transit planning challenge in the next few years with the arrival of publicly funded SunRail commuter rail in 2014, and private companies also lining up rail plans.
Orlando Transportation Policy Advisor Christine Kefauver says after looking at MIC, she thinks Central Florida is heading in the right direction.
“Our intermodal center is further down the road, but I don’t see that there’s anything above and beyond to say that we’ve not planned appropriately," says Kefauver, adding "it’s nice to see this kind of stuff in use.”
Orlando International Airport is making plans for an intermodal station at the site of its yet-to-be-built South terminal. Potential rail connections include SunRail and All Aboard Florida, a privately run central Florida to Miami service which Florida East Coast Industries wants to have operational by 2014.
Kefauver says All Aboard Florida has a good chance of success, based on what was learned from the failed attempt to bring high-speed rail to Central Florida.
“As we went through the conversation of Orlando to Tampa for high-speed rail, what we heard from a lot of folks was ‘I really want to get to Miami,’" she says.
Kefauver says rail will benefit Orlando residents and the 55 million tourists a year who visit the area."Tying all this in at the airport increases their ability to be able to use those other modes.”
The SunRail line does not include an airport stop, but MetroPlan Orlando, the transportation planning agency for Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties, has begun talks on how to link the commuter rail with the airport.
Metroplan Orlando executive director Harry Barley says one option is to use a rail spur that now brings coal to OUC’s Stanton power plant. “That’s clearly the easiest and fastest to do, because of that spur being in place, and perhaps reframing this as an extension of the existing SunRail project.”
The rail spur branches off the SunRail line between the Sand Lake Road station and Meadow Woods station, and runs past the south of the airport.
Barley says some new rail would have to be laid to connect the freight line with the airport and to double the track in some places. He says a "back of the envelope" estimate put the cost of adapting the rail spur for a passenger train at around $104 million.
Meanwhile, Christine Kefauver says she's hopeful demand for SunRail will allow it to increase its frequency from every 30 minutes as currently planned, to every 15 minutes. When that happens she says there will be added impetus to connect the rail line to the airport.