Friday, June 22, 2012

Orlando airport eyes FEC rail link

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Officials overseeing Orlando International Airport in central Florida say they have approved a request by Florida East Coast Industries to develop plans linking the airport to the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC).

The link is a facet of FEC's announced plan to establish "All Aboard Florida" intrastate passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando, and eventually Jacksonville, using active FEC right-of-way for much of the route but expanding service to the Orlando area by adding roughly 40 miles of new right-of-way.

Some observers on Friday suggested that FEC is also eyeing potentially large lucrative intermodal freight opportunities that the Class II railroad could tap, as well as scoring public relations points for expanding passenger intermodal options. FEC is considered by many to be particularly adept at handling intermodal freight, a mainstay of the railroad.

But "I don't think they're getting an intermodal freight connection to Orlando, but an intermodal passenger connection," one local source told Railway Age. "They're using the same terminology in Miami for their connection between the Metrorail, commuter rail, and the airport's people mover."

"We view the potential opportunity as positive news because it follows our master and strategic plans," Orlando International Airport Executive Director Phil Brown in a statement Wednesday. "The addition of rail, which has always been viewed as significant, will make Orlando International Airport truly an intermodal gateway."

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates Orlando International, says it already has invested in "infrastructure for a station that could accommodate up to four rail systems," including SunRail regional (commuter) rail service serving the Orlando metropolitan area.

Coral Gables, Fla. based Florida East Coast Industries is owned by New York-based Fortress Investment Group LLC.