NEWS: Universal To Partially Fund the Airport Train to Disney World

Does anyone else still miss Magical Express at Disney World? With that free service gone, guests must now choose between a few different paid options to get from the Orlando International Airport to Disney World. You could use Mears Connect (which is run by the same people who ran Magical Express) or try out Sunshine Flyer. Or you can skip the buses altogether and opt for a rideshare or rental car instead. If you’re looking for even more options, maybe you’d prefer to take a high-speed train to Disney World?

©Brightline

Brightline proposed a train from the Orlando airport to Disney World back in 2020, and it was initially scheduled to begin running this year (in 2022). However, the project has hit a few bumps along the way, including disagreements on the route the train would take. But now things seem to be moving along again, and we’ve got a new update on the train’s progress.

Quick re-cap on the situation

In case you haven’t been following the progress on the Brightline train to Disney World, we’ll go over a few key events quickly here so that the new update makes sense. Brightline proposed the train from the airport to a stop in Disney Springs back in 2020, and construction has hit a few snags since then.

©Brightline

Besides the normal delays and some extra difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the reasons for the halt in progress was disagreements on which route the train should take. There were 2 proposed routes — one along State Road 417 and one that followed International Drive.

2 potential routes ©Brightline

Brightline preferred the State Road 417 route, as it would cost almost $1 billion less than the I-Drive route. But several companies (including Universal Orlando) advocated for the I-Drive route as it would bring the train (and thus its passengers) closer to more tourism-heavy areas. The I-Drive route would run near Universal’s upcoming theme park, Epic Universe.

Universal Orlando Universal’s Epic Universe Concept Art ©Universal/Comcast

The interested parties were not able to come to a consensus, so in 2021 the decision was delayed indefinitely. However, more recently a solution was proposed called the “Sunshine Corridor Program.”

©Brightline

This solution called for Brightline to lease tracks from the existing SunRail commuting company, which would lower some of the extra costs for the I-Drive route. Additionally, the Biden administration passed the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act last year, which allocates $1.2 trillion in federal grants to public transportation. With the rental agreement and possible grants from that bill, the I-Drive route seemed much more possible.

©Google Maps

This route is planned to go from the Orlando International Airport through the Orange County Convention Center, down South International Drive, and to a stop in Disney Springs.

Updated

Now, the Orlando Business Journal has reported that Universal Orlando and other I-Drive companies have pledged to donate 13 acres of land for the Orange County Convention Center train station. This station would be used by both SunRail and Brightline trains. In addition, Universal and other partners have pledged $125 million for the station’s construction and $2 million annually for maintenance (Orlando Sentinel).

Brightline Train Route Concept Art ©Orange County Convention Center

These companies have also guaranteed $13 million annually in ticket sales from the station, which will be located along Destination Parkway. This proposal was given during a workshop on May 5th, which took place after the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission meeting.

©Brightline

Federal grants from the 2021 Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act are likely still essential for the project to move forward. But Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stated that “the disclosure of Universal’s willingness to add money to an east-west expansion is a significant boost. The theme-park company’s investment alone could amount to the needed local match for federal grants” (Orlando Sentinel).

Universal Orlando Resort

The grants from the federal government and funding from local companies may not be the only funds allocated to this project. Orange County has proposed a “penny sales tax increase,” which residents will vote on in November. If passed, this tax would send more funding to public transportation in the area, potentially including this project.

©OrlandoSentinel

The next steps in this process include applying for those federal grants and researching potential ridership for the Brightline trains. We’ll be on the lookout for more updates about the Brightline train to Disney World, so stay tuned with AllEars.

Click here to find out where the Brightline train might drop off guests in Disney Springs.

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What’s your favorite way of getting from the airport to Disney World? Let us know in the comments.

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