SunRail is a commuter rail system in the Greater Orlando, Florida area. Service began on May 1, 2014. Phase 1 comprises 31 miles (50 km) with 12 stations along the former CSX Transportation "A" Line connecting Volusia County and Orange County through Downtown Orlando. The extensions proposed for Phase 2 would add a new northern termius at DeLand and four more stations southward, terminating at Poinciana in Osceola County. It is expected to be fully completed sometime in 2017. Formerly known as "Central Florida Commuter Rail", the SunRail system is financed by the state and Federal governments and the counties it serves. SunRail is Florida's second commuter rail system after Miami's Tri-Rail.
- 1 History
- 2 Service
- 3 Fare system and ticketing
- 4 Technical
- 5 Safety and security
- 6 Plans and expansions
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Cost and funding
Instead of building an entirely new rail line, the State of Florida purchased a 61-mile segment of the existing "A" Line between DeLand and Poinciana from CSX Transportation. The total cost of the system was originally estimated at $615 million for construction plus $432 million to purchase the right of way and tracks. However, the cost of construction ended up being above the $615 million quoted and the agreement still allows CSX to run a limited number of freight trains along the line at night, although the majority of the freight traffic has been rerouted west to CSX's "S" Line.
The system was 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 came from a federal transit "New Starts" grant. The local partners were responsible for 25 percent of the cost and another 25 percent was paid by the State of Florida, which included the cost of track improvements, construction of train stations, and purchasing of locomotives and 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 operates on, and also allowed the state to formally request $300 million from the federal government to cover construction costs.
During its first year of operation, SunRail made a total of $7.2 million from a combination of fares, advertising and fees paid by CSX and Amtrak to run their trains through the corridor. However, SunRail spent a total of $34.4 million during that same year, ending it with a $27.2 million deficit and an average daily ridership of 3,700 passengers.
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 legislative 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, 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.
Federal funding for the southern portion of Phase 2 was officially secured on May 4, 2015, which guaranteed $93 million towards the development of the 17 mile extension of the system south to Poinciana. However, the additional $35 million in federal funding needed to develop the northern portion of Phase 2, which would extend the system 13 miles north to DeLand, still has yet to be secured.
The Phase 1 construction contract was awarded to two primary general contractors; RailWorks Track Systems, Inc. of New York City, who would be responsible for right-of-way and track improvements, and Atlanta-based Archer Western Contractors Ltd., who would be responsible for building the stations. Work would include 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 Control Center and Vehicle Storage & Maintenance Facility at CSX's Rand Yard in Sanford.
Ground was broken at the future Altamonte Springs station site on January 27, 2012, marking the official beginning of construction for Phase 1 of the SunRail project. The first load of steel rail for double tracking the route between Sanford and Longwood was delivered not long after in early 2012. A second set of rails 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 were 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. By the time Phase 1 construction was completed in early 2014, nearly 32 miles of main line single track were double-tracked, three existing CSX freight yards were reconfigured, wayside signal and grade crossing signal improvements were made along the corridor, a total of 12 stations were built, and a new Operations Control Center and Vehicle Storage & Maintenance Facility were constructed.
The route is made up of the following stations, from north to south:
|DeLand||DeLand Amtrak Station||2||Amtrak Silver Service, Thruway Motorcoach, Proposed VOTRAN||Park-and-ride|
|DeBary||DeBary Station||1||VOTRAN Routes 31, 32, 33||Park-and-ride|
|Sanford||Sanford Station||1||Link 34, Link 46E, Link 46W, NeighborLink 651||Park-and-ride|
|Lake Mary||Lake Mary Station||1||Link 45||Park-and-ride|
|Longwood||Longwood Station||1||Link 434(At SR 434 and Ronald Reagan Blvd. Direct Service to station discontinued 12/11/14)||Park-and-ride|
|Altamonte Springs||Altamonte Springs Station||1||Link 436N||Park-and-ride|
|Maitland||Maitland Station||1||Link 102, Neighborlink 652||Park-and-ride|
|Winter Park||Winter Park Station||1||Amtrak Silver Service,Link 1, Link 9, Link 14, Link 23, Link 102, Link 443|
|Orlando||Florida Hospital Health Village Station||1||Link 102, Link 125, FastLink 17-92||Florida Hospital|
|Lynx Central Station||1||Link 3, 7, 8, 11, 13,15, 18, 20, 21, 25, 28, 29, 36, 38, 40, 48, 49, 50, 51, 54, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 125,300, 304, 313, 319, FastLink 441, FastLink 17-92, Lymmo Orange Line|
|Church Street Station||1||Lymmo - Orange Line and Grapefruit Line||near Amway Center|
|Orlando Health/Amtrak Station||1||Amtrak Silver Service, Link 40, Thruway Motorcoach||Orlando Regional Medical Center|
|Pine Castle||Sand Lake Road Station||1||Link 11, 18, 42, 111,Xpress Link 208,FastLink 418||Park-and-ride|
|Meadow Woods||Meadow Woods||2||Link 18, FastLink 418||Park-and-ride|
|Hunter's Creek||Osceola Parkway Station||2||Link 18, Neighborlink 631||Park-and-ride|
|Kissimmee||Kissimmee Amtrak Station||2||Amtrak Silver Service, Link 10,18,26,55,56.57,108,Xpress Link 208,FastLink 441,and Neighborlink 632 at Lynx Kissimmee Intermodal Center, Greyhound||Park-and-ride|
|Poinciana||Poinciana Station||2||Link 306||Park-and-ride|
SunRail only runs on weekdays excluding holidays between the hours of 5:06 AM and 11:23PM. The trains have operated on weekends when a sponsor has paid for the service. Examples are during the 2014 Winter Park Arts Festival and when the first Major League Soccer game was played in downtown Orlando. SunRail says it would cost $19 million to obtain the additional trains and $10 million in additional operating costs to expand into weekend services, and increase the number of daily rides from 34 to 40.
Fare system and ticketing
Riders on the SunRail system use a Stored-value card, in the form of a disposable Limited Use Ticket or a Reloadable SunCard, to pay fares. The cost of SunRail tickets is based on the number of counties (zones) through which the rider will be travelling. As of 2014, the system passes through three counties: Volusia; Seminole; and Orange. In Phase 2, the system will also enter Osceola.
SunRail uses a "tap on/tap off" system for ticketing. Riders must "tap on" at a validator unit at the station prior to boarding the train by tapping their ticket on the screen and waiting for the beep. Riders must again "tap off" at a validator unit with their ticket after disembarking at their destination before exiting the station. Reduced Fares are available for Disabled, Seniors (65+), and Students (7-17).
Limited Use Tickets
Every station on the line is equipped with four ticket vending machines. These machines sell Limited Use Tickets for one-way trips and round-trips. They are also used by riders making a transfer from a Lynx or Votran feeder buses to swipe a transfer card and to obtain a SunRail ticket.
Reloadable SunCards are also available at station vending machines. These cards can hold a travel plan and be used as a prepaid debit card. Travel plans are available in 7 day, 30 day, and 1 year timeframes.
Operations & Maintenance
In addition to SunRail commuter trains, the line is used by three daily round trip Amtrak trains (the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star and Auto Train), as well as by a handful of CSX freight trains. It was also used by Amtrak's tri-weekly Sunset Limited which ran between Orlando and Los Angeles. However, service has been suspended indefinitely between Orlando and New Orleans since 2005 due to damage caused to the line by Hurricane Katrina.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced on April 16, 2013 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 assumed 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 the Operations Control Center at Rand Yard in Sanford, Florida.
Operational testing of the SunRail equipment began on October 26, 2013 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 took place over the following months to ensure that the new trains, wayside signals and grade crossing signals operated correctly, as well as to verify that the trains properly aligned with each station platform.
On Friday, January 31, 2014, the Florida Department of Transportation announced that SunRail would begin service on May 1, 2014. SunRail initially offered a series of free test runs in April, but canceled them and instead decided to open for free for the first two weeks of service in May. This enabled remaining work to be completed in time. SunRail warned passengers who already purchased fare cards not to use their fare cards during the free run, or they may be deducted fares.
The SunRail grand opening was held at the Sand Lake Station at 11:00am EDT on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. This was preceded by a series of openings at the other stations, starting at the DeBary Station at 8:15am EDT, and progressing south down the line through the other stations at 15 minute intervals. Passenger operations officially commenced on Thursday, May 1, 2014 with the first revenue service train departing south out of the Sanford Station at 5:06am EDT.
Sunrail trains operate at speeds between 30 and 79 miles per hour (48 and 127 km/h), with an average speed of 33 miles per hour (53 km/h), including stops. Each car is fully wheelchair accessible and equipped with a restroom, space for bicycles, electrical outlets for laptops and phone chargers, and free Wi-Fi. In 2011 the Florida Department of Transportation ordered fourteen BiLevel coaches from Bombardier Transportation for $41 million, with an option for 46 additional cars. This order was later expanded to twenty, with the first cars arriving in Florida on July 20, 2013. Motive power is provided by seven MPI MP32PH-Q diesel locomotives. These were ordered on September 12, 2011. The first locomotive, #100, arrived on October 1, 2013 via CSX freight train at the SunRail Operations Control Center in Sanford, FL from the MotivePower plant in Boise, Idaho.
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.
Safety and security
In the months leading up to SunRail going operational, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) ran an aggressive public-safety campaign to warn drivers and passengers about railroad safety using pamphlets, puppet shows for children, YouTube and even a Safety Mascot Squirrel named Tie. Despite this effort, SunRail has experienced several accidents with both motorists and pedestrians. Nearly a year into service, officials began installing dial-up grade crossing systems at grade crossings that are located closest to the stations. This system allows train crews to manually activate grade crossing warning devices (i.e. crossing gates, lights and bells) from the locomotive cab via key-coded radio transmission, thus eliminating the confusion of the grade crossing warning devices automatically activating, deactivating and reactivating whenever trains approach, stop at and depart the stations.
Security on the train and at stations is the responsibility of FDOT. The FDOT does not employ a security force and relies solely on surveillance cameras. Uniformed police officers are permitted to ride SunRail free of charge.
Grade crossing accidents
Because of the flat terrain and high water table of the Orlando area, the entire route of SunRail is at grade. Most road crossings except for expressways are not grade-separated; even major arterials like Route 17/92 have level crossings in populated areas. There are 96 grade crossings along the Phase 1 route, with an additional 30 on Phase 2. SunRail dramatically increased frequencies on the line, with 34 daily trips. Six daily Amtrak trains (three round trips) continue to operate, while 20 daily freights have largely been moved to the CSX "S" Line to the west.
Within the first five months of regular operations, SunRail trains were involved in four grade crossing accidents, all caused by driver error. Florida Highway Patrol officials blamed the crashes on drivers who were too impatient to wait for trains to pass and did not understand that trains cannot stop quickly. Tri-Rail, which operates in a very similar densely populated area with many grade crossings, had 93 crashes during its first 15 years, though other systems saw their rates decrease after the initial months. After two more driver-caused accidents in early 2013, police increased enforcement of drivers bypassing crossing gates in an attempt to prevent additional crashes.
Plans and expansions
SunRail divided their startup operations into two phases. Phase 1 opened on May 1, 2014 between DeBary and Sand Lake Road. Due to budgetary constrains, Phase 2 will be constructed and opened in two separate segments; "Phase 2 South" and "Phase 2 North". Because federal funding in the amount of $93 million has already been secured for Phase 2 South, construction on this segment will begin first. This segment will extend the system south into Osceola County with a station at the existing Kissimmee Amtrak station as well as new stations being built in Hunter's Creek, Meadow Woods and Poinciana. Phase 2 North will extend the system north to the existing DeLand Amtrak station. However, because federal funding has yet to be secured for this segment, there is currently no timeline as to when construction will begin.
Airport Connection/Phase 3
SunRail officials are currently investigating a connection to Orlando International Airport. Currently this connection requires transferring to a bus at Sand Lake Road Station. The rail connection, described as being in "preliminary talks", will not happen until at least 2020, if at all. The 5.5 mile route currently under investigation would travel 3.5 miles along the existing Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) rail spur, which runs along the southern boundary of the airport and is used exclusively by coal trains to deliver coal to the Stanton Energy Center in eastern Orange County. A new 2 mile dedicated SunRail spur would branch north off of the OUC line and terminate at the planned South Airport Intermodal Station. There, passengers would transfer to an Automated People Mover (APM) to take them the short distance north to the existing airport terminal. Passengers would also be able to transfer directly to All Aboard Florida trains, a planned privately-funded higher speed rail passenger service of the Florida East Coast Railway, which would offer sixteen daily roundtrips to Miami starting in 2017. Direct transfers would also be available to the proposed Maglev train that is planned to run between the South Airport Intermodal Station and the Orange County Convention Center with stops at the Florida Mall as well as the Sand Lake Road SunRail Station.
Daytona Beach Extension
On April 17, 2014, Volusia County and FDOT funded a $2.5 million study to investigate the cost, preliminary design and ridership of a SunRail extension to Daytona Beach. As part of this effort, Volusia county wants to see the Interstate 4 median width maintained as a possible future rail corridor.
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