Tampa is the “natural progression” for a future extension of the All Aboard Florida commuter rail service being developed between downtown Miami and Orlando International Airport, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad said.
Business and political leaders here “ought to be thinking about how they can create the climate, create the business environment that All Aboard Florida can leverage if and when they decide to extend that rail to Tampa,” Prasad said. “The key thing for any rail project is the transit-oriented development. You need development around the train station.”
The state’s top transportation official was in Tampa to open the first phase of a $55 million petroleum berth manifold system at the Port of Tampa.
This summer FDOT and the Orange County Expressway Authority approved lease and purchase agreements, respectively, providing right-of-way to route railroad track between existing lines on Florida’s east coast and the Orlando airport.
Prasad told Tampa Bay Business Journal that Tampa leaders need to plan the location for a Tampa rail station and encourage development “so that if growth is there already it becomes financial lucrative for All Aboard Florida to extend.”
Some Tampa Bay business and political leaders are worried the intra-city commuter train and its corresponding economic development will bypass the region.
Rusty Roberts, vice president of corporate development for Florida East Coast Industries, private backers of the $1.5 billion rail project, said the company has not studied expanding the route beyond the Orlando-Miami segment. He said it is “premature” to discuss a connection to Tampa.
“It is essential that we get the Miami-Orlando system built before taking further steps,” Roberts told the Business Journal on October 10.