Months overdue, transfer of SunRail control from state to local governments could take years longer

ORLANDO, Fla. — SunRail has been up and running in Central Florida for more than seven years.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

Initially, there was a deadline for the state to hand over operations of the rail line to the City of Orlando and the surrounding counties it serves.

READ: Zillow to sell off hundreds of Orlando homes after homebuying division crumbles

One reason for the delay in the transition is that the project isn’t actually complete.

The 61-mile rail currently runs from Osceola County north to DeBary in Volusia County, but there’s still one more stop that needs to be built in DeLand before the state hands over control.

There are also additional concerns about just how the transition would take place, and how the local governments plan to pay for it.

Original plans called for the state to run it for just seven years before handing over operations to the City of Orlando as well as the Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia County governments.

Had it gone according to schedule, that transition would have happened this past May.

READ: Frontier to launch these 16 nonstop Orlando routes

“The current contract or agreement between the partners is that the leg to DeLand has to be completed first,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.

Officials say completion of the final leg from DeBary to DeLand could be another two years away, but that’s not all that needs to happen.

A consultant assisting in the transition laid out some of the biggest concerns.

First, there’s still no organizational structure to speak of between the local governments. They also still need a funding source for a mid-life overhaul and major system maintenance.

Officials say they’re also having trouble finding staff with rail experience.

Mayor Demings says he believes increasing SunRail ridership will be the key. To do that, he says they’ll need to improve connectivity to the trains and frequency of the trips.

Demings is planning to push for a sales tax hike to help cover transportation costs that could go before voters in 2022

READ: ‘A new chapter’: Dr. Phillips Center announces plans to celebrate completion of original design

He says raising the sales tax by just a penny could bring in an additional $600 million a year for transportation that could also be shared with other municipalities to help cover SunRail costs.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.