Travel from Miami to Orlando to Tampa, while taking a pit stop at the most magical place on Earth along the way, all without stopping for gas or calling shotgun for the passenger seat. Brightline, a high-speed passenger rail system, aims to connect Miami, Orlando and Tampa through their rail extension in the state of Florida.
Brightline strives to connect South Florida to Central Florida, and the company is already building tracks to Orlando International Airport. In an agreement with Walt Disney World, Brightline will build a train station at Disney Springs, a hub for tourists near several major roads like Interstate 4 (I-4).
Currently, Brightline’s South Florida stops include Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and they are adding stations in Aventura, Boca Raton and PortMiami. Phase two of the company’s expansion includes adding a terminal at Orlando International Airport. They expect service to Central Florida to open in 2022, including the Disney Springs station, which awaits government approval.
The new Orlando station offers a direct connection from an intercity rail line to an airport terminal. Passengers will have pedestrian access from the train station to Terminal C and can access Terminals A and B through an elevated people mover system. This will eliminate the need for car transport.
Phase three includes constructing rails that connect the Orlando International Airport station to Disney Springs and adding two additional stops in Lakeland and Tampa.
As the first privately-held passenger railroad in the U.S. in 40 years, Brightline has carried 2 million passengers since its launch in 2018. Its expansion in Florida connects passengers to airports while simultaneously reducing congestion on road networks.
From Miami to West Palm Beach, Brightline shares tracks with freight trains, which transport at 79 mph. However, with new upgrades, the shared-use line will run at 110 mph from West Palm Beach to Cocoa. The tracks westward from Cocoa to Orlando will be new high-speed tracks at 125 mph.
Future service from Orlando to Tampa will run on tracks in the median of I-4. The Florida Department of Transportation specifically maintained the I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando for the purpose of high-speed trains.
Despite the connectivity of passengers to important destinations, there are environmental benefits as well. Brightline has a 100% carbon neutral footprint and aims to remove 3 million vehicles from the roads per year. Since high-speed rail can use electricity, it offers low carbon production when using a variety of renewable resources.
Brightline uses FPL SolarNow Solar Trees to provide power in their facilities. The trains have diesel-electric engines that only use FPL EarthEra clean biodiesel for lower emissions.
In regard to economic benefits, this transportation system and its construction, created over 2,000 jobs in post-rail-line construction, added $3.5 billion to Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and increased labor income by $2.4 billion.
Besides economic and environmental impacts, train travel offers a safer and faster alternative to driving. In the United States, road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for people ages 1-54. In terms of speed, the average highway speed on Interstate 95 is 34 mph in comparison to 79-125 mph on Brightline.
Brightline’s goal to take cars off the road and provide an option for travelers to move between the nation’s most visited city pairs is reinforced through the addition of the Orlando International Airport station, but even more so by the addition of the Disney Springs station.
In 2019, Walt Disney World received 155.99 million park visitors, proving as a vital tourist destination that can benefit travelers.
A state-wide high-speed rail system within Florida is far in the future, but connecting South Florida to Central Florida and eventually to West Florida suggests progress in eco-friendly transport for travelers.