The State of Florida and local governments are spending $1.7 million to look at ways to connect Orlando International Airport with SunRail, even though a private company has already agreed to do just that. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Spokesman Steve Olson told us what question this study would be asking.
"The question that a lot of people have is, 'What kind of transit do you want in this area? How much is it going to cost? Where do you want to put it? How do you connect it to SunRail?'"
Area transportation agency Metroplan just gave the preliminary approval for a maglev train to be built that will connect the Convention Center with the Florida Mall, SunRail at Sand Lake Road, and the airport. It will cost $344 million and will be paid for entirely with private funding. We asked Steve Olson if that made this study a waste.
"It's not a wasted exercise, because that's just one corridor. If you look at this entire study, there are questions about connectivity down in Osceola County, connectivity to Medical City."
The study looks at other modes of transportation, like the possibly of having rapid transit buses where there would be specialized lanes in the corridor, or signals that only applied to buses, letting them go through while traffic is stopped.
"Maglev is one proposal, and it touches this study area, and it touches on this study, but this study looks at a lot broader of a picture."
The Department of Transportation paid $1.275 million for the study, and the last 25 percent was paid by a combination of the airport, the City of Orlando, plus Orange and Osceola counties.
FDOT prepared a series of frequently asked questions, since the maglev train was on the minds of so many people at the study's kickoff meeting.
Q: Will the Refresh Alternative Analysis (AA) consider Maglev/American Maglev Technology (AMT) as an alternative?
A: Since Maglev would be a privately constructed and operated transit system, the Maglev sponsors will be responsible for developing their alignment plans, station locations, operating plans, capital and operating cost estimates, ridership and revenue projections, and financing strategies.
The Refresh AA Study will follow Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidelines for transit projects that may be funded by the federal New Starts program. These FTA guidelines may result in different assumptions regarding land use and socio-economic projections, design year, alignments, costs, ridership and revenue.
In addition, the Maglev project as currently envisioned will be primarily designed to serve a distinct geographic and travel market – visitors and air passengers traveling between OIA and I-Drive. The primary focus of the Refresh AA Study will be identifying and evaluating alternative alignments in the study area that meet the needs of local residents and workers.
Therefore, the Refresh AA Study will NOT consider Maglev as a distinct corridor alternative but WILL attempt to: (1) identify potential right-of-way conflicts or constraints with the Maglev proposal and (2) review the Maglev ridership projections to determine the impact of the Maglev project on the ridership projections for the Refresh AA alternatives.
Q: How will the Maglev and All Aboard Florida project affect the Refresh AA?
A: FDOT is aware that the Greater Orlando Airport Authority (GOAA) has plans to construct a second, south terminal which will contain in intermodal facility. Current Maglev and All Aboard Florida plans are to terminate their systems at the OIA intermodal facility (at least in the near-term, future extensions beyond OIA are possible).
GOAA has designed "envelopes" for fixed guideway transit that would enter the intermodal facility from the north (e.g., Sand Lake Road / Bee Line) and from the south. At this time, it is thought that the envelopes will accommodate two modes from each direction, plus a proposed people mover extension between the north and south terminals.
Maglev and All Aboard Florida plans may affect the mode and alignment of Refresh AA options that would access the OIA intermodal terminal.