Disney’s Magical Express is gone, which has left guests with a few different options for getting from the Orlando International Airport to Disney World. There are a couple of bus services (similar to Magical Express), including Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer. Or you can choose to use rideshare or rent a car. But many guests are looking forward to the proposed high-speed train that will take people straight from the airport to a stop in Disney Springs!
This train has been in the works for a while now, with several updates about the possible routes, the vehicles themselves, and the construction progress. The project has hit a few bumps along the way, and its completion date has been pushed back by a few years. But now we’ve got a new update on this train’s progress!
One of the biggest hurdles to be overcome before the Brightline train could begin taking passengers from the Orlando International Airport to Disney World was choosing which route the train should run. Brightline had one preferred route (near State Road 417), but several other entities preferred the I-Drive route, which was estimated to cost up to $1 billion more than the State Road 417 route.
Some organizations preferred the I-Drive route because it would pass through more tourism-heavy areas, and Universal Orlando especially pushed for this route as it would run near their upcoming Epic Universe theme park. This would allow Universal guests to utilize the train as well.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said that the two competing ideas led to “a lot of yelling and screaming in those initial meetings.” The disagreement led to an indefinite delay in the decision, but progress was finally made when both sides seemed to agree on a new solution: the “Sunshine Corridor Program.” This program (potentially funded by the 2021 Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act) would mean that Brightline would lease a corridor of tracks from the existing SunRail commuter train systemand the 2 trains would share the pathway.
The route would go from the airport through the Orange County Convention center and down South International Drive to Disney World. From there, Brightline would build its own tracks from Disney World on to Tampa.
But, we already knew all that. So what’s the new update? According to the Orlando Business Journal, Universal Orlando and other partners have “pledged to donate 13 acres and money for an Orange County Convention Center-area train station that would be used by SunRail and Brightline.” The Orlando Sentinel reported that about $125 million was promised for the station’s construction.
Universal and other International Drive partners have also guaranteed $13 million annually in ticket sales from this station, and they have committed to giving $2 million annually for maintenance of the station. The station would be built on land owned by Universal along Destination Parkway. This was all proposed during a workshop on May 5th after the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission meeting.
Although the 2021 Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (a $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill that focuses on highways and public transportation) could be essential for this project, Mayor Dyer has said 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).
More funding could come from a proposed “penny sales tax increase,” in Orange County, which will be voted on in November. This tax would go to transportation improvements in the county. Mayor Dyer has said that “the proposal [for the Brightline train to Disney World] is not nearly as far along as you may think,” according to the Orlando Business Journal. Future steps will include applying for federal grant funding other researching potential ridership for the new trains.
We’ll keep watching for more updates on this ongoing project, so stay tuned with DFB for all the latest news.
Click here to see everything we know about Brightline’s train to Disney World.
Will you ride the train to Disney World when it’s finished? Let us know in the comments.