Miami-Orlando rail may lure hotel to station
By Meisha Perrin
Details surrounding planned passenger rail service to Miami were revealed last week as Husein Cumber, executive vice president for corporate development for the Florida East Coast Railway, presented "All-Aboard Florida" before the Miami City Commission.
The rail service, intended to be rolling by 2014, will be the first privately owned and operated intercity passenger railway in the US, he said.
"This is very important for us to create a fluid system throughout the state," said Mr. Cumber, who added he is excited to fill the gap between Miami and Orlando.
Though it isn't considered a "high-speed" railway, the train will travel up to 125 mph to carry passengers from Miami to Orlando in about three hours and three minutes, he said.
"People who take the rail service care about the time from origin to destination, not necessarily how fast the train goes," Mr. Cumber said. "We've designed a system that, even though it does not go 200 mph, it meets the public's need to do that travel time in three hours."
According to Mr. Cumber, 95% of people who travel between South Florida and Central Florida go by automobile. With creation of the rail service, Mr. Cumber said he hopes to ease that traffic by providing a more efficient, convenient and environmentally-friendly way for passengers to make the trip.
The route, he said, will include four stops — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and ultimately Orlando — with a grand central type 9-acre station in Miami between First and Eighth streets by the site of the former Miami Arena, which now is vacant land.
It is expected to be a significant transit-oriented development, according to Mr. Cumber, giving Miami the largest employment presence of the four cities. The station might provide passengers with eateries, offices spaces, a hotel and retail — to be modeled after Paddington Station in the United Kingdom, he said.
Mr. Cumber is looking to locate the Orlando station at Orlando International Airport, which would further move the airport toward becoming an intermodal gateway.
As for the state of Florida, the immediate benefits of such a project, according to Mr. Cumber, include creation of more than 1,200 new construction jobs, 400 new permanent jobs to run the passenger rail itself, and substantial environmental benefits that would get people off the roads and put them on the rail system.
It would also spur an increase in property values throughout the area, he said.
"Miami is growing up and becoming a world-class city, and I think all of the world-class cities have mass transit," city commission Chairman Francis Suarez said at the meeting. "I mean, that's just a necessary component."
Mr. Cumber said the new service would not prevent any other passenger rail project from entering the area and passengers could still walk across the railway to catch a connection on other intercity and inter-state railways like Amtrak.
Construction, he said, is expected to begin as 2013 opens for completion in 2014, and is to take place without any state or federal grants.
The estimated passenger cost of travel is still being discussed, he said, but it is expected to be competitive in price with travel by air or by automobile.
Florida East Coast already owns and operates freight rail service up the state's East Coast. The 240-mile trip to Orlando would follow that route to Cocoa, where a new line would link to Orlando, the company has said, with plans to operate both freight and passenger service on the route.
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