Oct. 03–People who now drive from Central to South Florida could within two years hop on a train for a three-hour trip instead, thanks to deals being reached this week.
Owned by Florida East Coast Industries of Coral Gables, All Aboard Florida is planning depots at Orlando International Airport, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The trains would run on a 230-mile route.
Its customers are expected to be business travelers and tourists. A one-way ticket could cost about $100.
Construction could start next year on the privately financed, $1.5 billion project because the agreements provide a place for the train at OIA, as well as right of way along the BeachLine Expressway for tracks to the airport.
A sister company of All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Railway, already owns about 200 miles of track from Miami to Cocoa.
The pact approved Wednesday calls for the Orlando airport to seek a $200 million grant from the state to pay for a station about a mile south of the main terminal.
“We are embarking on a new business frontier, making us the true hub of Central Florida and the true hub of the state,” said Frank Kruppenbacher, airport board chairman.
The depot initially would serve All Aboard Florida but also would have space for a potential future spur of the SunRail commuter train scheduled to start operating in May and for one other train, possibly the proposed magnetically levitated system from the airport to the Orange County Convention Center.
All Aboard Florida would pay the airport $2.8 million annually for rent, plus up to $1.50 per train passenger who leaves from Orlando. The train company also would spend $50 million to build a maintenance facility at the airport and pay more than $580,000 a year to lease the land for it.
As many as eight trains — each comprised of two locomotives, six passenger cars and a cafe car — would be kept overnight at OIA. Up to 80 jobs could be created to maintain the trains, an All Aboard Florida spokeswoman said.
Dick Kane, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said his agency would review the airport’s $200 million grant application, but he made no promises. “We’ve got to do our financial due diligence,” he said.
The agreement with the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority is scheduled to come up for a vote during a board meeting Thursday.
Specifics of the deal were not released, but officials say it calls for a 99-year land lease along the southern edge of the BeachLine for a total of $4 million.
All Aboard would pay another $4 million to the authority to cover the lost revenue of toll payers who might take the train rather than drive on the BeachLine. It also would pay $12 million to the authority for the extra expense of reconfiguring a BeachLine interchange with the International Corporate Park property near the airport to accommodate the train.
Authority Chairman Walter Ketcham said he anticipates his board will vote in favor of the agreement.
“I’m not aware of any issues. I think it’s met with open arms,” Ketcham said.
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