The train that will eventually take guests from Orlando International Airport to Disney World just took a HUGE step forward.
For months, we’ve been covering everything related to this train — from its potential cost to considerations about how Disney World will get guests to their hotels once the train is operational. Most recently, after many discussions, a potential route had been proposed for the train to take from the airport to Disney World (a topic that had been heavily debated) and now plans for the train has taken another HUGE step forward.
What’s Been Happening?
As we mentioned above, just what route the train would take between the airport and Disney World (Disney Springs, specifically) had been hotly contested. Brightline preferred one route (near State Road 417), but other companies and groups had fought against that, pushing for a route along I-Drive.
The most recent solution proposed was for the creation of something called The Sunshine Corridor Program. Under this program Brightline would lease a corridor of tracks from the SunRail commuter train system (which is already in existence)and the 2 trains would share the pathway.
the train go from the airport through the Orange County Convention center and down South International Drive to Disney World. Brightline would then build its own tracks from Disney World to Tampa.
What made this idea possible was the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (which was passed in 2021). This Act opened up the potential to get federal funding for the project. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said that the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021 changed things and allowed people to “see a funding scenario that supported the route to I-Drive and the convention center.”
Last we heard, a decision had to be made by summertime so that applications for funding could be made. We also shared that part of the route could be funded by Universal, thanks to a pledge made to donate a certain amount of acres and money for a train station at the Orange County Convention Center area that would be used by SunRail and Brightline.
So what’s happening now?
A Big Update for Funding!
According to the Orlando Business Journal, there’s been a big update when it comes to funding for the airport train. The Orlando Business Journal reports that a number of US Representatives announced on June 1st that Central Florida would be “awarded up to $15.88 million from the US Department of Transportation Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program.”
Those federal funds will help make the Sunshine Corridor project a reality. The federal grant funds will be used on “preliminary engineering activities and environmental approvals tied to connecting the route from Orlando International Airport and Tampa.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, that grant will help them form a “concrete plan for Orlando-to-Tampa rail. That plan will be the basis for seeking grants for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal money.”
Where will the rest of the initial money for the project come from? Brightline will reportedly contribute $15.88 million to match the grant — making the total investment $31.75 million.
Brightline’s CEO has noted that “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.”
The Orlando route is expected to run “along Taft-Vineland Road and State Road 528 to Interstate 4 and Disney, with a stop on Destination Parkway.” As we noted above, Universal Orlando Resort has said that it will donate some of the land for the station and will help with funding as well.
The I-Drive station and tracks are expected to cost over $1 billion (but a cost study that is fully in-depth has yet to be done).
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said, “The federal government providing the grant is a good indicator that they like our project...The grant will help us determine the details to submit applications for grants later this year, including routes, stops, costs, ridership, environment and economic impacts.” (Orlando Sentinel)
In the meantime, Brightline is making progress on its train route that’ll ultimately connect Miami to Orlando. The expansion from West Palm Beach to Orlando is about 80% complete and service is expected to begin in 2023.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more details on just how this project progresses. Keep in mind that as of updates from March of 2021, it was noted that the airport train’s service to Disney Springs may not begin until 2026. So it could be quite a while before we see this train anywhere near Disney World.
According to some reports, Brightline has indicated that it could have up to 12 stations on the path between Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.
To learn more about where the airport train’s Disney Springs station could be located, click here. And to see just how you might get yourself (and your luggage) from Disney Springs to your hotel once the train is active, click here.
In the meantime, while we wait for the airport train to be built, you can take a look at some of the other options you can use to get from the airport to Disney World (including some newer Magical Express replacement services).
Would you use the airport train to get from Orlando International Airport to Disney World? Tell us in the comments!