TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One day after Tampa officials toured Brightline high-speed rail facilities across Florida, Mayor Jane Castor enthused about the company’s proposed expansion to Tampa.
The details are still in the works, Castor said Tuesday, but city’s long-awaited Brightline station will be built in the Ybor City area.
“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.”
While visiting the West Palm Beach station – which will be similar in scope to the proposed Tampa station, according to Brightline – Castor remarked on the community that sprung up 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.”
According to Castor, the Tampa train station will be built “in very close proximity” to the TECO Streetcar, which runs between Ybor City and downtown Tampa. City officials plan to “do a great deal to take care of that first-mile, last-mile,” Castor said, referring to smaller-scale transit that takes riders to and from the station.
The city aims to implement multiple transportation projects simultaneously so residents can fully utilize the new train station and contribute to the economic development of the area.
“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.”
The problem with big transportation projects, according to Castor, is that they often take several years to complete.
“I would say, on the optimistic side, in four or five years, hopefully we’ll have passengers travelling between Orlando and Tampa,” Castor said.
Castor is hopeful the Brightline extension will be completed “pretty quickly,” as it would be constructed by the private rail company in partnership with 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 asked about how the Brightline station could affect existing future development plans for Ybor City, Castor said she doesn’t expect them to change much.
“If anything, it will probably escalate those,” Castor said. “But when you look at Brightline, they’re connecting entire communities around our state.”
The connectivity between south and central Florida’s major cultural centers – Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa – is expected to be a draw for both tourists and businesses, Castor said. But first, the city has to identify potential locations for the station before Brightline can begin construction.
Brightline and Central Florida’s Sunshine Corridor were awarded $15.9 million in federal funds last year as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. According to a 2022 news release from Brightline, the company plans to match the funds, resulting in a $31,750,000 total investment in the project.