News & Reviews News Wire Florida bill would preserve Interstate 4 route for Brightline extension to Tampa

Florida bill would preserve Interstate 4 route for Brightline extension to Tampa

By Trains Staff | January 4, 2024

| Last updated on February 2, 2024

Legislation to be considered in upcomgin 2024 session

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People mill about on platform next to streamlined passenger trains
Boarding and disembarking passengers meet on the platform of Brightline’s Boca Raton station on Jan. 4, 2023. Legislation seeks to preserve the path for a future Brightline expansion between Orlando and Tampa. David Lassen

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill requiring Florida’s Department of Transportation to preserve a corridor between Orlando and Tampa for future Brightline expansion has been filed for the state legislative session that begins next week.

The Brightline requirement, preserving a route along Interstate 4, is just one provision of SB1226, filed by state Sen. Nick DiCeglie (R-Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.), chairman of the transportation committee, on Wednesday. It also deals with such matters as administrative costs for public transit agencies and funding for landscaping on highway projects.

The Brightling portion requires a 44-foot corridor along Interstate 4 be preserved, along with minimum vertical clearance for rail traffic, and would require that future work along I-4 include grading and placement of drainage and other improvements for that future corridor. The Department of Transportation will track the costs for these improvements and would be authorized to recover them in a future lease of the rail corridor.

Brightline has long planned an eventual expansion of service to Tampa; the state received an almost $16 million federal grant to begin preliminary engineering on that extension in 2022 [see “Florida receives $15.875 million engineering grant …,” Trains News Wire, June 2, 2022]. The most challenging part of the project is likely to be the connection between Orlando International Airport and I-4, the so-called “Sunshine Corridor” project, where no clear right-of-way path exists. That could take up to 10 years to build [see “Brightline, SunRail ‘Sunshine Corridor’ project could cost $6 billion …,” News Wire, Sept. 6, 2022].

8 thoughts on “Florida bill would preserve Interstate 4 route for Brightline extension to Tampa

  1. If I-4 is anything like I-95 where there is a wrecked/disabled vehicle in the median every other mile, then this would be a bad idea IMO. I know there are other places where this exists but vehicle accidents are getting worse all the time it seems to me. I don’t know the actual statistics but even just one wreck in the median is bad enough.

  2. Brightline has already won the lease rights to the I-4 ROW. This bill is to codify what FDOT has to provide to Brightline to meet the lease terms.

    Also remember that I-4 to Tampa was already (somewhat) modified for HSR use back when there was a constitutional amendment requiring it to be HSR ready.

    This is different than what Brightline contracted with OOCEA (Beachline Tollroad) for access along the south side of the ROW.

    While I am not a big fan of rail running down a center median, there are many places between Celebration and Plant City where the median of I-4 is very, very wide. Wide enough to put 2 sets of rails and a station.

  3. If I understand the article, what if proposed is rail r/w alongside the freeway, not the median. Alongside makes more sense. Tracks in the median are highly over-rated.

    1. (1) Periodically transitioning tracks in/ out of median, meaning long bridges on a skew. Expensive cross-beams.
      (2) Complicates maintenance of both the road and the tracks.
      (3) The median is a lousy place for stations.
      (4) See photo earlier this week of the derailment in the median of the Interstate in California.

      Hope this helps.

    2. Thanks Charles. Had considered number 3 as I am a Chicagoean so familiar with the L lines in medians. But walking distances would be similar I think at any big train station. 1 and 2 definitely make sense.

    3. I don’t see much issue with stations in the medians/middle of the freeway myself as an user after using BART along Hwy 24 on and off over the last decade or so. BART maintenance employees might have very well have different opinions. The other consideration is land use. FL is not a wide open rural area as it used to be or people would to think and certainly true around Orlando and Tampa area.

      Otherwise, Charles makes a great point on access and maintenance after seeing Brightline’s build out to Orlando Airport during periodic biz trips over the last couple of years. The access and maintenance will certainly be a lot easier for the Brightline folks where as BART has periodically shutdown freeway lanes on there larger maintenance or major replacement/rebuild projects such as recent rail replacement project near Orinda along Hwy 24 as example

  4. Since Renner and Hutson are in their last year of messing up the State I see no way that they’ll let this pass the State House or Senate. If the MIA “governor” doesn’t like it they just kick the can down the road being the puppets they are.

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