Report: High-speed rail connecting OIA, Orange County Convention Center cheaper than expected

ORLANDO, Fla. — A new study shows connecting a high-speed railway from Orlando International Airport to the Orange County Convention Center might not cost as much as originally projected.

The study was released amid an ongoing battle over the route Brightline Trains might take as it plans to connect the airport to Walt Disney World, then on to Tampa.

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The I-Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce started a coalition advocating for a requirement that any intercity train that comes to Orange County must include a stop at the Orange County Convention Center.

Now, they’ve funded a study that suggests it will actually be less expensive than the route Brightline already has planned.

Their proposed route would run along State Road 417 to Disney on its way to Tampa, right by Nancy Leonard’s Hunter’s Creek home.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop it,” Leonard said. “I just hope that if it does, that they put one of those high walls up.”

However, there are efforts in place to stop it.

The I-Drive chamber is promoting a different route that runs along State Road 528 with a stop at the Convention Center before going on to Disney.

The key sticking point is money. Brightline projected the convention center stop would inflate the price from $1 billion to $2 billion.

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An independent Central Florida Expressway Authority study suggested it would cost $1.6 billion.

“Our studies are showing that there will be no Delta, and if there is one, we are committed to covering any possible Delta that there is,” I-Drive Chamber President and CEO Maria Triscari said last month.

Now, the chamber’s study suggests there’s no significant cost difference between the two routes at all.

In fact, the study found the State Road 528 route would cost $1.25 billion and the State Road 417 route would cost about $22 million more.

It suggests the big difference comes from train speeds.

The Expressway Authority study used designs with train speeds up to120 miles per hour. However, Brightline’s route was set at 90 miles per hour.

The group said fewer bridges would be needed on the SR 528 route, if the design speed was also 90 miles per hour.

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If accurate, it gives Nancy Leonard hope.

“I think it’d be better if they got out of the airport and were dropped off by the convention center,” Leonard said.

Brightline has not commented on the CFX study, but last month said they would welcome the opportunity to meet with the coalition to talk about the project.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

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