TAMPA, Fla.— Following a tour of Brightline high-speed rail facilities across Florida by Tampa officials, Mayor Jane Castor expressed her excitement about the company’s planned expansion to Tampa.
While the specifics are still being finalized, Mayor Castor stated on Tuesday that the long-anticipated Brightline station for the city will be constructed in the Ybor City district.
“The route is already laid out from Orlando to Tampa,” Castor said. “It will basically go down the middle of I-4 and then come in to the Ybor City area, where the Brightline station will be located.”
During her visit to the West Palm Beach station, which Brightline indicates will share similarities with the proposed Tampa station in terms of scope, Mayor Castor commented on the vibrant community that has developed around it.
“To see the development that occurred, it was almost as if they had inflated an entire community right there around that Brightline station,” Castor said. “They had a senior high-rise living facility, they had a mall, they had restaurants, they had high-rise, market-rate condominiums. It was really spectacular the draw that that transportation solution to West Palm.”
Mayor Castor mentioned that the Tampa train station will be constructed “in very close proximity” to the TECO Streetcar, which operates between Ybor City and downtown Tampa. City officials intend to focus on improving the “first-mile, last-mile” transit options, ensuring convenient access for riders traveling to and from the station.
The city’s objective is to concurrently execute various transportation initiatives, allowing residents to maximize the benefits of the new train station and promote economic growth in the region.
“There are a number of issues we have to address here: transportation, workforce development, housing affordability, sustainability and resiliency,” Castor said. “Transportation is the most important to our community and to the continued growth of the Tampa Bay region.”
According to Castor, a significant challenge with large-scale transportation projects is their extended duration, often spanning several years for completion.
“I would say, on the optimistic side, in four or five years, hopefully we’ll have passengers travelling between Orlando and Tampa,” Castor said.
Mayor Castor remains optimistic that the Brightline extension can be finalized relatively swiftly, given that it is a collaborative effort between the private rail company and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We’ve all seen it. It’s not a surprise to anyone, and I hope it’s not offensive, but private enterprise completes projects quicker than governments do,” Castor said.
When questioned about the potential impact of the Brightline station on the existing future development plans for Ybor City, Castor stated that she anticipates minimal changes to those plans.
“If anything, it will probably escalate those,” Castor said. “But when you look at Brightline, they’re connecting entire communities around our state.”
The enhanced connectivity between the major cultural centers in south and central Florida, including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Tampa, is expected to attract both tourists and businesses, as highlighted by Castor. However, before construction can commence, the city must first identify suitable locations for the station.
Notably, Brightline and Central Florida’s Sunshine Corridor secured $15.9 million in federal funds in the previous year through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. As per a 2022 news release from Brightline, the company intends to match these funds, resulting in a total investment of $31,750,000 in the project.