Brightline could help connect SunRail to OIA

Video: Brightline could help connect SunRail to OIA

SunRail could get a connection to the Orlando International Airport years earlier than planned and for a lot less money.

The quarter-of-a-billion dollar project has been in limbo for years.

Inside OIA's new train station, the only trains that are running are the ones that take you from here up to the main terminal. Brightline's committed to going in on the other side, but the missing piece has always been that link to SunRail.

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A few miles away at SunRail’s Meadow Woods station, people are going to and from downtown Orlando, wishing they had more choices riding the rails.

“It’s very convenient. We are in the happiest place on earth, so we need to get all these facilities,” said Marcos Pecunia, a rider.

A ride from downtown Orlando to Meadow Woods takes around 20 minutes.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s latest study on connecting SunRail to OIA said the last leg to the airport would add another 8 1/2 minutes.

But those 8 1/2 minutes, originally projected to cost $100 million, ballooned to $250 million the state just doesn’t have.

"It got me very concerned because we would have had two rail systems separated by five and a half miles with no connection,” said Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee).

Soto said he worked on getting Brightline to the table with a private plan for building that track from Meadow Woods to the airport.

“It’s a very logical next step for SunRail, so I would very much like to see it happen,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Dyer said local leaders are spending the next three months trying to hammer out a deal with Brightline, which could put SunRail trains on Brightline’s new tracks.

The state study estimates 2,500 people will ride SunRail and Brightline to the airport, the first year they become available.

There is another potential side benefit to SunRail: Pretty much everyone involved sort of assumes it means SunRail would end up operating nights and weekends.