ORLANDO, Fla., July 26, 2013 – Work on Central Florida’s first commuter rail line is progressing, and the line is expected to open by next year.
Work to convert the corridor for use by SunRail remains ongoing and the headway is quite apparent. For example, new platforms are nearing completion at the Amtrak stations in Orlando and Winter Park; the stations will continue to serve the national passenger railroad once SunRail starts operations.
As part of the 12-stop, 32-mile first phase, trains will operate between DeBary, north of Orlando’s city center, and Sand Lake Road in Orlando. When the second phase opens in 2016, the 17-station, 61.5-mile line will extend to DeLand on the north end and Poinciana on the south side.
“SunRail will be a game changer of tremendous opportunity, transforming our region, rolling through Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said during last month’s “State of the County Address.”
She added: “After so much hard work by so many community champions, we are on the cusp of realizing a network that will not only get us to and from our destinations, but that will support vibrant new business centers.”
The route more-or-less parallels the busy Interstate 4 corridor and connects four Central Florida counties. The project is expected to cost more than $1 billion, and a mix of local, state and federal funds are covering costs to buy right-of-way, make infrastructure upgrades and purchase rolling stock for SunRail.
The first cars for the line are expected to be unveiled in Sanford in August, according to the Orlando Business Journal. In April, the Florida Department of Transportation awarded Bombardier Transportation a 10-year, $195 million contract “to provide operations and maintenance services” for SunRail.
The Canadian company is also supplying 20 bi-level commuter cars for the service.
As part of the service, SunRail will use the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s Church Street Station. The historic depot opened in 1889 and served as the namesake for an entertainment district that opened in the area in the 1970s; the historic steam locomotive that was parked in front of the depot for years was relocated a nearby museum to make room for new platforms.
The line is planned to serve as the first phase of a commuter rail network throughout the region. As Jacobs said last month: “From east to west, and north to south, a new day is coming.”
A second proposed commuter route, All Aboard Florida, is planned to connect Orlando with Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami. A third proposed route, the Orange Blossom Express, is planned to connect Orlando with Mount Dora.