Brightline Gets Its Federal Grant Money

The Brightline transportation project in Central Florida just gained government support for a bold, new plan. I’ll explain the good news in today’s update.

The Government Grant

While most theme park headlines have focused on the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the real politicking in Florida has occurred behind the scenes.

Disney and Comcast have jockeyed for position with the upcoming Brightline development at the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Courtesy of Disney Tourist Blog

This station will connect Orlando with Tampa via high-speed rail and eventually allow all Florida residents to ride a train to the theme park.

Universal Orlando Resort officials obviously wanted their park to gain a stop on this line as well.

So, their owners, Comcast, have quietly championed the so-called Sunshine Corridor. Meanwhile, Disney plans a Disney Springs area station of its own.

The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced a grant of $15.8 million, which effectively doubles to $31.6 million due to a Brightline pledge.

This project has already cost billions of dollars and will only add billions to that total in future years.

So, the new Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements stipend indicates more about gaining federal government support for the project than anything financial.

Simultaneously, Brightline and Universal Orlando Resort have gotten what they wanted.

Before this year, two competing paths had vied to turn into the main Orlando path.

Comcast desired a station near the Orlando Civic Center, which is near the planned location for Universal’s Epic Universe. Remember that Comcast owns NBCUniversal.

Previously, Brightline and Orlando officials had deemed that train path too expensive. But, in the aftermath of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, they gained the needed funding for the project.

Now, the so-called Sunshine Corridor has gained the seal of approval from Orlando’s Mayor, Buddy Dyer.

Last month, the Mayor revealed a modified proposal that made everyone happy…and I mean *everyone*.

Disney hadn’t wanted to help a competitor, but it still gets what it wants here. So let’s talk about the proposed plan.

The Sunshine Corridor

Orlando officials worked with Universal and Brightline to find a transportation strategy to satisfy Disney and the other parties. To make it happen, they drafted an outside entity.

SunRail currently operates a community rail service in the Orlando area. However, most of its tracks take a north/south approach.

You can look at a map of this region to appreciate it’ll need to go at least partially east/west to connect everything.

Courtesy of Disney Tourist Blog

So, Brightline will do something unexpected here. It’ll lease its usage of the existing SunRail tracks already in place.

This change creates a singularly unique setup. Brightline remains a private company while the federal, state, and local governments finance and operate SunRail.

By taking this approach, Brightline can build out its infrastructure more rapidly and cheaply, although we shouldn’t lose sight of what an expensive project this is overall.

The proposed plan would lead to a sort of dream scenario for frequent Orlando vacationers.

Theoretically, we’d fly into Orlando International Airport, board the nearby Brightline station, and then choose where to go.

Courtesy of Disney Tourist Blog

The main route will transport guests to a station near the Orlando Civic Center, where we’ll choose whether to disembark.

Our answer depends on whether we want to spend a day or two at Universal Orlando Resort during our Disney vacation. We will ignore this stop and exit on the Disney campus if we’re not.

Effectively, this Sunshine Corridor will connect Disney and Universal Studios by high-speed train.

Courtesy of Disney Tourist Blog

However, we’re still just in the planning phase for the Central Florida part. Much can change in government transportation.

The current plans call for the Disney station to open in 2025 at the earliest. So, we still have a long way to go from here.

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