Florida rail company secures deal linking Miami and Orlando


By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI, Oct 3 (Reuters) - A company vying to build Florida'sfirst privately owned intercity passenger rail line struck acritical deal on Thursday, leasing the final piece of the230-mile (370-km) route between Orlando and Miami and clearingthe way for work to begin by the end of this year.

All Aboard Florida said construction on the $1.5 billionproject should last about 18 months and said the rail line isslated to open in 2015.

Under Thursday's deal, the company secured the right of wayto utilize a strip of land alongside State Road 528 linkingOrlando and Cocoa, near Cape Canaveral.

"All Aboard Florida has now secured the critical right ofway needed for the project," the company said in a pressrelease.

The company also finalized an agreement with OrlandoInternational Airport on Wednesday giving it the right to runthe trains onto airport property that will allow passengers tomake direct connections to flights.

"Floridians and visitors want transportation options andflexibility," said Frank Kruppenbacher, chair of the GreaterOrlando Aviation Authority in a press release.

The trains running between Orlando and Miami would make thejourney in about three hours, traveling at speeds of up to 110mph (177 kph). Ticket prices have yet to be announced, accordingto a company spokesperson.

The new service is designed for tourists and businesstravelers and would link two of Florida's major urban centers.

The trip on the line would include stops in downtown Miami,Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando InternationalAirport. The service will utilize 200 miles (322 km) of existingFlorida East Coast Railway lines between Miami and Cocoa.Thirty-five miles of new infrastructure will connect theexisting line to the airport.

Florida East Coast Industries, a subsidiary of New YorkCity-based Fortress Investment Group and owner of AllAboard Florida and Florida East Coast Railway,proposed the train service last year, pending negotiations tosecure the final link to Orlando.

The Orlando airport will seek a $200 million grant from thestate to pay for a station near the main terminal, according tothe Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

All Aboard Florida also wants to acquire land in downtownMiami to build a train station and transportation hub, linkingwith the local light rail and bus services.

Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation,currently offers a twice-daily service between Miami and Orlandotaking five to seven hours.

In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected a $2.4 billiongrant from the federal government to build a high-speed railline connecting Orlando, in central Florida, with Tampa on thestate's west coast.

Florida East Coast Industries officials have said studiesshow that about 50 million people travel between Miami andOrlando every year, with 95 percent making the journey by car infour to five hours.

The project will include a set of diesel-powered trains witha 400-seat capacity offering an hourly service with first-classand business-class seating, gourmet dining and WiFi.

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