It’s been a busy six months for Brightline.
In January, the United States’ only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railway launched its first service from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, Florida.
In May, the first Brightline train departed West Palm Beach for Miami and weeks later it announced plans to replicate the train company’s model in other parts of the country – and that was before work to construct an extension to Orlando had even begun.
Now Brightline has submitted a proposal to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to lease state-owned right of way and build a privately funded passenger railway between Orlando and Tampa.
Brightline president Patrick Goddard described Tampa as a natural extension because it is one of the United States’ fastest growing regions.
He added: “Our state’s residents, visitors and economy will benefit tremendously from a fully connected passenger rail system that includes our current operations in South Florida and our future line to Orlando.
“We are currently engaged in the [request for proposals] process, which is the first step needed to extend the system to the Tampa Bay region.”
As a result of Brightline’s proposal, FDOT has initiated an open procurement process so other interested private parties can apply.
Florida governor Rick Scott, who in 2011 rejected more than $2 billion in federal funds for a taxpayer funded 84-mile government train from Tampa to Orlando, said it is an exciting proposal to build a rail connection that has “zero financial risk to Florida taxpayers”.
He added: “When I became governor, the Obama administration was trying to use federal taxpayer dollars to pay for a rail connection that had an extremely high risk of overspending taxpayer dollars with no guarantee of economic growth.
“This is exactly what we’re seeing in California, a state which took this bad deal from Obama, and in Connecticut where taxpayers had to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for their rail line.
“Instead of placing taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, our goal is for the private sector to invest in this project.”
FDOT said interested parties have 120 days to submit proposals.