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Brightline secures federal funds to help complete a plan for Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail

Caitie Switalski

A high-speed rail connection between Tampa and Orlando is a step closer to reality.

Brightline announced Wednesday it has received $15.9 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation toward high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando.

Brightline will match those funds and begin the preliminary process of receiving engineering and environmental approvals to build the 67-mile rail system, primarily along Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando International Airport.

“The Sunshine Corridor is a comprehensive, ambitious transportation solution for Central Florida. It represents the missing link in Brightline’s plan to connect Orlando and Tampa with modern, eco-friendly, intercity passenger rail,” Brightline Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger said in a statement. “New, innovative transportation solutions will provide an economic boost to Central Florida and makes the state even more attractive to businesses and future residents.”

Brightline currently runs a rail service from West Palm Beach to Miami, according to a press release, and the line from Orlando to West Palm Beach is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with passenger service beginning in 2023.

There's no timetable for the Tampa leg yet. Brightline officials said earlier this year they are working with Tampa officials to identify where a terminal should be located. Ybor City — near I-4 — is regularly mentioned as a possibility.

 Map of the Orlando-to-Tampa extension
Map of the Orlando-to-Tampa extension

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
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