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Tampa and Orlando transportation leaders unite in their pursuit of Brightline

In this Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 file photo, a Brightline passenger train passes by in Oakland Park, Fla. Florida's high-speed passenger train service suffered the first fatality on its new extension between West Palm Beach and Orlando on Thursday, Sept. 28 2023 when a pedestrian was struck. Overall, it was Brightline's 99th death since it began operations six years ago.
Brynn Anderson
/
AP
Transportation organizations in the Tampa and Orlando areas are combining efforts to support a Brightline passenger rail service along I-4.

They gathered to discuss current projects along I-4 and support a passenger line between Tampa and Orlando along the interstate.

Transportation organizations in the Tampa and Orlando areas are combining efforts to support a passenger rail service along I-4.

Members of the Suncoast Transportation Planning Alliance and Central Florida MPO Alliance gathered Friday to discuss current projects along I-4, and show support for a passenger line along the interstate.

Forward Pinellas Executive Director Whit Blanton presented the resolution.

"Anybody who's traveled between Orlando and Tampa and the I-4 corridor in general, whether it be all the way to Volusia County, knows how growth and development in that corridor is affecting travel time reliability, safety, economic development, and all sorts of other issues," Blanton said.

Officials from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Orange, Osceola and other counties throughout Florida were in attendance.

"The goal of this resolution is not to single out in particular entity or organization,” Blanton said, “but to collectively identify that there is a need for intercity passenger rail transportation that would be a catalyst."

Three other projects along I-4 will relieve traffic congestion when completed, including:

  • I-4 from Champions Gate to East of Osceola Parkway – Includes upgrading I-4 to accommodate three general use lanes, two express lanes, and auxiliary lanes in both directions of I-4 from west of Champions Gate to east of Osceola Parkway. Modifications and enhancements of existing interchanges are also part of the project.
  • Poinciana Parkway Ext. Connector from County Road 532 to State Road 429 – This new stretch of roadway will extend about four miles from just south of County Road 532 along the Polk/Osceola County line to the I-4/State Road 429 Interchange.
  • I-4 from U.S. 27 to Champions Gate – Includes upgrading I-4 to accommodate three general use lanes, two express lanes, and auxiliary lanes in both directions of I-4 from west of U.S. 27 to west of Champions Gate. Modifications and enhancements to the U.S. 27 interchange area are also part of the project.

Earlier this year, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and several area transportation leaders took the Brightline connection between Orlando and Miami. After returning, Castor said Tampa's Brightline station would be in Ybor City.
A few federal grants have trickled through to start the process, but there's no current timeline for when Brightline would come to Tampa.

Indian Rocks Beach Republican State Rep. Nick DiCeglie proposed a bill in the last legislative session that would have required the Florida Department of Transportation to preserve a 44-foot-wide corridor along I-4 for the potential rail connection, but that language was eventually taken out.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has previously said he does not want state taxpayers to be “on the hook” for paying for rail expansion.

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