SunRail (formerly referred to as Central Florida Commuter Rail) is a commuter rail system under construction in the Greater Orlando, Florida area, linking Poinciana to DeLand through Downtown Orlando. When Phase 1 is completed, SunRail will run for 31 miles (50 km) with 17 stations along the CSX Transportation "A" Line (former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad main line). In 2014, service is scheduled to begin service from Volusia County through Orlando with eventual connectivity to south Osceola County.
The SunRail system is being financed by the counties, the state, and the federal government. It is expected to be fully completed sometime in 2016. SunRail will be Florida's second commuter rail system after Miami's Tri-Rail.
In 2013, Bombardier (company) won a 10-year $195 million contract to operate and maintain SunRail. Bombardier handles operations and maintenance for the Tri-Rail system in South Florida and is a major train system company based in Canada.
The following stations are planned, from north to south:
|DeLand||DeLand Amtrak Station||2||Silver Service, Thruway Motorcoach, Proposed VOTRAN||Park-and-ride|
|DeBary||DeBary Station||1||VOTRAN Route 23||Park-and-ride|
|Sanford||Sanford/State Road 46 Station||1||Link 34, Link 46E, Link 46W, Link 103||Park-and-ride|
|Lake Mary||Lake Mary Station||1||Link 45||Park-and-ride|
|Longwood||Longwood Station||1||Link 434||Park-and-ride|
|Altamonte Springs||Altamonte Springs Station||1||NEW Link 100, NEW Link 101(Link 41 discontinued and split in 2014), Link 102, and Link 103, FastLink 17-92 (Routes re-routed from Fern Park at SunRail launch, due to safety issues)||Park-and-ride|
|Maitland||Maitland Station||1||Link 102||Park-and-ride|
|Winter Park||Winter Park / Park Ave Station||1||Silver Service,Link 1, Link 9, Link 14, Link 23, Link 102, Link 443, FastLink 17-92|
|Orlando||Florida Hospital Station||1||Link 102, Link 125, FastLink 17-92||Florida Hospital|
|LYNX Central Station||1||LYNX|
|Church Street Station||1||Amway Center|
|Orlando Health/Amtrak Station||1||Silver Service, Link 40, Thruway Motorcoach||Orlando Regional Medical Center|
|Sand Lake Road Station||1||Link 11, 18, 42, and 111||Park-and-ride|
|Meadow Woods||Meadow Woods||2||Link 18||Park-and-ride|
|Hunters Creek||Osceola Parkway Station||2||Park-and-ride|
|Kissimmee||Kissimmee Amtrak Station||2||Silver Service, Link 4,10,18,26,55,56,57, and FastLink 441. At new LYNX Kissimmee Intermodal Station Greyhound||Park-and-ride|
Cost and funding
The total cost of the system is estimated at $615 million for construction plus $432 million to purchase the right of way and tracks. The state of Florida will purchase the "A" Line from DeLand to Poinciana from CSX. The money was above the $615 million quoted for the system, which will have CSX still run some limited freight at night on the "A" Line, but most freight traffic is planned to be rerouted.
The new commuter rail system is to be financed by the federal government, the state and the counties. Volusia County, Seminole County, Orange County, the City of Orlando and Osceola County are the partners in the project. Fifty percent of the funding is to come from a federal transit "New Starts" grant. The local partners are responsible for 25 percent of the cost and another 25 percent is to be paid by the State of Florida. This includes the cost of track improvements, construction of train stations, and of purchasing rail cars.
On 22 December 2010, it was announced that the state of Florida had created an escrow account with $173 million. The money was planned to be used to purchase the tracks SunRail will operate on, and also allowed the state to formally request $300 million from the federal government to cover construction costs.
Project planning and approvals
At the end of July 2007, Orange County, Seminole County, Osceola County, Volusia County and the City of Orlando all voted on and approved the Sunrail project. Osceola County had agreed in principle, but was still examining how to fund its $9.3-million share at the time.
An agreement was reached between Florida Department of Transportation and CSX for the purchase of the tracks on November 29, 2007, and the Florida Legislature approved the CSX-Florida Department of Transportation agreement in order for project construction to begin. However, the legislature failed to vote on the agreement to purchase the right of way and tracks from CSX in the 2008 session. At issue were provisions regarding liability and indemnification. Commenting on the bill, state senator Paula Dockery said, "I don't envision a time anytime soon where thoughtful senators are going to say that there's some kind of good public policy involved in taking liability away from somebody who was at fault and putting it on the taxpayers of the state of Florida."
The contract between CSX and Florida DOT was in place through June 30, 2009, and the legislature planned to use another opportunity to consider and approve the agreement in the 2009 legislative session. The bill made it through all necessary Senate committee approvals and the first segment of the project had already been approved to enter Final Design by the Federal Transit Administration on August 11, 2008.
On January 14, 2009, the SunRail name and logo were presented to the public by City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Progress continued to move slowly forward on the project until the state legeslative session on April 30, 2009 when the project was once again defeated by a 23-17 vote. The movement against the project, which was once again led by state senators Paula Dockery and Mike Bennett, continued to revolve around an amendment that would have approved a $200 million insurance policy for SunRail. Another political problem for SunRail was an overall lack of support for the project from the South Florida delegation (which included state senators Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, Nan Rich of Weston and Frederica Wilson of Miami) effectively killed the bill.
After the second failure, with the deadline to purchase the tracks in question from CSX looming, the state initially pulled the plan from the legislative agenda, endangering as much as $307 million in federal funds that had been promised to SunRail, which would have been taken away if the plan failed. Nearly $27 million of that federal money had already been spent to purchase rail equipment and land for stations and it was unknown whether or not the State of Florida would have had to pay the money back to the federal government. However, CSX rescinded the deadline on June 29, permitting more negotiation time for insurance arrangements. An agreement on insurance was finally reached, and lawmakers convened a special session in December 2009 that passed the House on December 7 and the Senate on December 8. Additional federal money may be attracted to reduce the financial cost to the state.
On December 8, 2009 the contractual requirement necessary to move forward with SunRail was passed along with funding for South Florida's Tri-Rail system. At the bill's signing Senate President Jeff Atwater said "Today, Florida is embracing the opportunity to lead the nation in developing a comprehensive transportation system, thereby ensuring our competitive edge in the 21st Century global economy. A comprehensive transportation system, creating opportunities and avenues to connect employers and employees, is integral to building a stronger future for Florida."
Negotiations with Amtrak subsequently led to a dispute over which party would bear liability for incidents on Amtrak trains operating on the route, which would be owned by SunRail—Amtrak wanted SunRail to assume responsibility for such incidents, while SunRail wanted Amtrak to be liable. The purchase of the trackage from CSX could not be completed until an agreement with Amtrak was reached. On December 10, 2010, it was announced that Amtrak and the state had apparently reached a deal regarding the issue, as Amtrak had dropped its opposition to the sale.
On January 29, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott froze all SunRail contracts and ordered a six-month legislative review of the project to determine whether the project was a good investment. However, on July 1, 2011, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad announced that Scott had finally approved the project.
On January 27, 2012, ground was broken at the Altamonte Springs station, marking the start of construction for Phase I of the SunRail project. Phase I construction included double tracking the existing line; the installation of new wayside signals; improvements to existing grade crossings; construction of the station platforms, canopies and adjacent parking areas; as well as building of the operations and maintenance facilities at CSX's Rand Yard in Sanford. The first load of steel rail for double tracking the route between Sanford and Longwood was delivered in late 2011 / early 2012. A second set of rail for double tracking the route between North Street in Longwood and Gore Street south of Downtown Orlando was delivered at the end of March 2012, and a third set which supplemented various locations between Sanford and Orlando was delivered at the end of July 2012. The sections of standard 115-pounds-per-yard rail are 1650 feet long, weighing 31 tons each. On September 28, 2012, the St. Johns River drawbridge in Sanford was closed for 54 hours while construction crews demolished and replaced the bridge approach spans.
Operations & Maintenance
The SunRail line is currently used by two daily Amtrak round trips, the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star, as well as by numerous CSX freight trains. It was also used by an Amtrak tri-weekly trip, the Sunset Limited from Orlando to Los Angeles, which has been suspended indefinitely between Orlando and New Orleans since 2005 due to damage caused to the line by Hurricane Katrina.
On April 16, 2013, the Florida Department of Transportation announced that it had awarded Bombardier Technology a $195 million contract to provide operation and maintenance services for SunRail, which includes train operations, dispatching, track and equipment maintenance, customer service, station platform & facility maintenance, and materials supply. Bombardier will assume the operations and maintenance responsibilities in the spring of 2014.
On Monday, July 29, 2013 at 3:30 AM, the Florida Department of Transportation assumed all train dispatching duties along the SunRail corridor from CSX. This event officially marked the end of CSX's involvement with the operations of the line, transferring total operational control of the corridor to the State of Florida. Since the hand off from CSX, all train dispatching has been handled by the "CFRC Dispatcher" out of Sanford, Florida.
On Saturday, October 26, 2013, operational testing of the SunRail equipment began along the corridor between the DeBary and Maitland stations. The test train, which consisted of a locomotive and two cab cars, was part of a 2,500 mile "burn-in" period that is required prior to the start of revenue service. Over 100 similar test runs will take place over the next month to ensure that the new trains, wayside signals and grade crossing signals operate correctly, as well as to verify that the trains will properly align with each station platform.
Trains are planned for 1, 2 or 3 cars, plus locomotive, at speeds between 65 and 79 mph (105 and 127 km/h). Each car can carry 150 passengers.
On May 10, 2010, the Orlando Sentinel announced that the Florida Department of Transportation was in the final stages of placing orders for the rolling stock of the SunRail system, with plans at the time to order seven locomotives from MotivePower Industries and thirteen passenger cars, four coaches and nine cab cars, from Bombardier Transportation.
On July 22, 2011, Bombardier Transportation announced an order from the Florida Department of Transportation for fourteen BiLevel coaches at a cost of approximately US$41 million, with the potential for up to 46 additional orders. Deliveries of the coaches are planned to begin in May 2013 and continue through August.
On September 12, 2011, it was announced that SunRail had purchased seven 3,000 horsepower rebuilt locomotives from MotivePower, with options for thirteen more and deliveries to begin from 2013.
On July 30, 2013, the first piece of SunRail equipment, Cab Car #2000, was delivered via CSX freight train to the SunRail Operations Control Center in Sanford, FL from the Bombardier plant in Plattsburgh, NY where it was manufactured.
On September 10, 2010, the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission announced it had chosen a paint scheme for the trains.[dead link] The design consists of a representation of a sun, as well as renderings of green for wildlife and blue for skies.[dead link] According to the designer, Jim Bockstall, the scheme was based on public input and was a hybrid of representations of both movement and traditional imagery.[dead link]
- "Station Concepts". Florida Department of Transportation (District 5). Retrieved 2010-04-07.
- [Volusia County] Business Briefs July 2013 Florida Trend
- "FDOT, CSX Transportation Execute Commuter Rail Agreement". Florida Department of Transportation. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "SunRail's $173 million escrow account moves commuter rail one step closer to construction phase". Orlando Sentinel. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
- "First commuter rail vote happens Thursday". Central Florida News 13 (online). 19 July 2007.
- "Orlando on board for rail". OrlandoSentinel.com. 2007-07-24. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
- "Commuter rail votes chug along". Central Florida News 13 (online). 24 July 2007.
- "Volusia County Council Actions - JULY 31, 2007". Volusia.org. 2007-07-31. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
- "CSX RAILROAD WANTS TO BE TREATED LIKE A KING". The Injury Board. 3 May 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
- Miller, James (May 1, 2008). "Senate applies brakes to commuter rail". Daytona Beach News-Journal. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- "State won't buy CSX track in Central Florida". Tampa Bay Business Journal. May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- Schlueb, Mark (January 14, 2009). "Logo for proposed commuter rail unveiled". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
- "Sentinel exclusive: Commuter-rail plan might be back". Orlando Sentinel. 2009-06-26. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
- "Dyer: 3rd time will be charm for SunRail". Orlando Sentinel. 2009-07-02. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
- Governor's Press Office, 16 December 2009
- "Amtrak dispute could delay SunRail plans". Trains Magazine. 19 August 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
- "Amtrak, Florida reach SunRail deal". Trains Magazine. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
- "Scott Freezes SunRail Contracts for Review". WCTV. Associated Press. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "SunRail gets go-ahead". Gulf Coast Business Review. 1 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- "SunRail project breaks ground". Railway track and Structures. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- "SunRail tracks delivered in Longwood". Orlando Sentinel. 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2012-04-09.
- Staff (30 July 2012). "Delivery of SunRail track Monday will cause delays on Sanford streets". Sandford Herald. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- "SunRail work to close St. Johns bridge". Orlando Sentinel. 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- "Florida DOT awards $195 million SunRail contract to Bombardier". Progressive Railroading. 2013-04-16.
- "SunRail Train Scheduled to Roll - Without Passengers - on Saturday". 2013-10-24.
- Tracy, Dan (2010-05-10). "State About To Buy Locomotives And Coaches For SunRail Train". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
- "Bombardier Marks 14th North American BiLevel Rail Car Customer with Orlando-area Project" (Press release). 22 July 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- "SunRail, Sound Transit order MotivePower locomotives". Trains Magazine. September 12, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
- http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/57022-sunrail-locomotive-delivered/ First SunRail locomotive delivered
- "They’re here! First SunRail cab car arrives in Sanford.". Orlando Business Journal. July 31, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
- [dead link]"Rail Commission picks SunRail train design". 10 September 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
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