The mystery of why in the hell Florida East Coast Industries would want to start private passenger service from Miami to Orlando just got a little bit clearer: they may also be getting an intermodal freight connection to Orland International Airport! A press release from the airport authority (.pdf):
Demonstrating a vision for the future, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates Orlando International Airport, has already invested in infrastructure for a station that could accomodate up to four rail systems. In discussing the integration of rail [Phil Brown, Executive Director Orlando International Airport] explained, “We have planned our intermodal facility in a central location to service both the north and the future south terminal and All Aboard Florida is vying to be the first rail system to operate from it.” […]
After considering FECI’s proposal, the Board approved the request and authorized the Executive Director to develop an agreement with FECI to provide commercial passenger service to Orlando International Airport’s Intermodal Facility to be presented to the Aviation Authority Board.
The railroad clearly wants to continue to grow its freight business while introducing passenger service, which will make them one of the few private constituencies for FRA crash safety reform. They already have very good signaling because of their reliance on time-sensitive intermodal freight (most American railroads carry slow bulk freight like coal, chemicals, and grain), which will help them when they get in front of the FRA and have to prove that they can prevent and mitigate crashes without bulking their trains up like tanks.
A cynic could say they’re only starting passenger service to get subsidies from the government for their freight business, but for the moment I’d like to be optimistic and think that it’s a genuine synergy.
And then there’s this out of Rep. John Mica’s office, telling the Army Corps of Engineers not to get in the FEC’s way (the tabloidesque bolding of “Mica” is them, not me!):
In a letter today to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo Ellen Darcy, Mica followed up on discussions with the Corps in Washington and Jacksonville about shrinking the approval schedule and expediting the private sector rail project.
“With the right-of-way already in place there is no reason to drag this out,” Mica said. “This should not be a bureaucratic process. Imagine the government actually acting quickly to put people to work, expand private investment in a billion-dollar infrastructure project, and get cars off our congested highways.”
Mica recently met with Corps of Engineers officials to discuss fast forwarding the required environmental reviews that will allow the project to proceed, and work on a plan that could bring the route into service by early 2015. Mica expects the Corps’ environmental review and permitting process to be completed within 12 months, since the planned route travels over an existing rail right-of-way and other existing transportation corridors.
Update: Wait a minute – “with the right-of-way already in place”? Who said that the right-of-way between Cocoa and Orlando was already in place? Is it the Bee Line Expressway? I don’t remember that being announced publicly.