Bill in Florida Legislature would set aside I-4 land for Brightline passenger rail between Tampa and Orlando

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©2024 The News Service of Florida

Public land would have to be set aside along Interstate 4 so private passenger rail service could be extended between Orlando and Tampa, under a bill filed Wednesday for the 2024 legislative session.

The proposal (SB 1226), filed by Senate Transportation Chairman Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, would require the Florida Department of Transportation to preserve a 44-foot-wide rail corridor in the interstate’s right-of-way.

The department would also be required to consider infrastructure issues, such as the spacing of bridge columns and barriers that would separate the potential rail land and the interstate.

In September, Brightline completed a 170-mile, $6 billion project that connected its rail service to Orlando from South Florida, where stations have operated since 2018.

Brightline has signaled that it wants to extend the service to the Tampa area.

Sen. Jay Collins and Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman, both Tampa Republicans, have submitted $50 million budget requests for rail improvements in the Interstate 4 corridor.

DiCeglie’s bill and the budget proposals will be considered during the legislative session that will start Tuesday.

When he was Governor, Rick Scott turned down federal funds that would have built a public high-speed rail line along the I-4 corridor. The money was sent to rail projects in other states instead.

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