New commuter rail link ready to roll in central Florida
ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida is scheduled to start a commuter rail system on May 1 along a major interstate corridor that runs through downtown Orlando, becoming the first system to open in the United States in three years.
SunRail will extend 61 miles at a cost of $1 billion by the time a second phase is completed in 2016.
The commuter rail system will open during a time of rising public transit ridership. The American Public Transportation Association in March reported a record 10.7 billion trips taken nationally in 2013, fed, in part, by investments in transit by states and cities to attract new businesses and workers.
SunRail will run in a generally north-south direction through the eastern side of central Florida with downtown Orlando near the midpoint. The train bypasses the city's major theme parks.
Stops include several suburbs, two large Orlando hospitals and medical complexes and the Amway Arena, the home of the NBA's Orlando Magic.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said one goal for SunRail was to change growth patterns in central Florida away from suburban sprawl toward more walkable urban environments increasingly popular today.
Since SunRail was funded, nearly $1.7 billion in development, including 4,500 residential units, has been completed or is under construction within a 10-minute walk of a commuter station, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We're competing for the bright, talented, young people and entrepreneurs with places like Austin and San Francisco to bring that talent to Orlando,” Dyer said. “They expect public transit.”
The wider vision is for SunRail to tie into an extensive public transit network linking Orlando and Miami by an inter-city higher-speed rail.
If the project succeeds, “then you've expanded the effective commuter shed that someone could live in Miami and work in Orlando or vice versa,” said David Levinson, urban systems researcher and civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.
“It happens in Europe all the time, and it happens in the Northeast Corridor all the time.”
SunRail is the 10th commuter rail system completed in the United States since 2000, and follows the 2011 opening of the 21-mile “A Train” in Denton, Texas, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Other systems since the turn of the century were built in Austin, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Albuquerque, Seattle, Portland, Maine, and Portland, Ore.
Despite President Obama's attempt to jump-start high-speed rail construction across the country with $8 billion in his 2009 economic stimulus package, no European or Japanese-style train has been constructed, Levinson said.
Projects in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio were canceled by Republican governors who criticized the federal government for wasteful spending. Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott cited the risk of cost overruns being absorbed by the state.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- El Niño helps, harms economies
- Boy Scouts of America votes to end controversial ban on openly gay leaders
- Police try to see if man killed by escort was linked to crimes against women
- Oklahoma court: Ten Commandments monument at Capitol must go
- Obama urges Congress to reinstate Export-Import Bank
- ‘Added sugar’ label details advance in FDA proposal
- San Francisco’s Chinatown clings to roots amid tech boom
- Nuke arms program gets 4-star leadership
- Republicans seek firing of IRS chief in feud over missing emails
- National Security Agency to stop looking at old telephone records
- Georgia judge says she did not involuntarily commit Louisiana movie theater gunman Houser