Tampa Mayor Tours Miami Brightline Station, Test Rides Train
Tampa's mayor visited Miami Thursday to learn more about a rail system that could potentially add a new transportation link between Florida's three largest cities.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn toured the Brightline station in Miami with Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez before test-riding a train to Fort Lauderdale. Buckhorn wanted to see how the railway operates as Brightline works to expand its service into the Tampa Bay area.
The high-speed passenger railway currently connects Miami to West Palm Beach and is expected to add a route to Orlando by 2020. Buckhorn said he supports building another connection from Orlando to Tampa.
"I think it's everything that I hoped it would be," Buckhorn said after the test-ride. "It's comfortable, it's clean, it's quick. What else can you ask for?"
Brightline has submitted an unsolicited bid to lease state property to run its train service from Orlando to Tampa. Buckhorn said he hopes the state will soon reach a deal with Brightline to allow service to Tampa to begin in the next four years.
Gimenez, who supports the expansion, said Brightline could increase economic growth in Tampa. He noted that the station in Downtown Miami has lured new businesses and increased development. It's also important to have a train connecting Florida's three largest cities, he said.
"Give people different options to get to Orlando or get to Tampa or get to Miami — not just by car," he said.
Buckhorn concluded his trip with a meeting with Fort Lauderdale mayor Dean Trantalis after the test-ride. Trantalis praised Brightline but noted that the service has drawbacks, including increased traffic as the trains cross through intersections.
The train horns are also "annoying," he said, "because there are now three or four times more than we experienced without Brightline."
Trantalis now wants Fort Lauderdale to build an underground tunnel for the Brightline trains. There is no timetable for when it could happen, but "the idea is spreading," he said.
In addition to discussing Brightline, Buckhorn addressed media reports that he could be Gwen Graham's running mate if she wins the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on Aug. 28.
Buckhorn said he's open to becoming a lieutenant governor if Graham selects him.
"She's gonna have to figure out what works for her," he said. "This isn't something I'm auditioning for. It's not something I'm trying out for."
Graham is facing challenges from Jeff Greene, Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine and Chris King among others. A Florida Atlantic University poll shows her in first place with a 12 percentage point lead.