HAINES CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — When Robert Griffin, a disabled veteran, moved to Haines City this winter, he thought it would be a short drive to the VA hospital in Kissimmee.
“It looked like it’s maybe a 10, 15 minute drive,” he said.
“How long does it actually take you?” asked News Channel 8 reporter Staci DaSilva.
“Around an hour because of the traffic. The traffic is heavy,” he said.
Griffin thinks more commuter trains could help alleviate the traffic on U.S. Highway 27 and Interstate 4.
“It would save you money, gasoline, wear and tear on a vehicle and of course the traffic. The traffic is something that is very convenient, being able to get on a train and not have to worry about the back and forth,” he said.
Griffin was one of more than 4,000 people who filled out a survey from the Florida Department of Transportation about the possible expansion of the Central Florida public commuter rail system, SunRail, into Polk County.
“This is a very preliminary stage that we’re at at the moment. It’s very much, we’re just collecting the data. We’re looking through what it would look like, what it would cost. We don’t really have a cost associated with this at this moment,” said Adam Rose, with Florida Department of Transportation.
“It’s taking us 35 minutes to get 10 miles and we need alternative transportation,” said Morris West, a Haines City city commissioner.
As many cities are vying for a stop on any future SunRail expansion, West said the city purchased lots near an existing train station.
“We can also show the SunRail that we have not only just the station but we have the land for parking,” said West.
Polk County Commissioner Rick Wilson told News Channel 8 he is concerned about the price tag for the service, and would rather focus on traffic flow improvements on the roadways.
Commissioner Bill Braswell said he is unsure how connected riders will actually be to their destinations.
“You get somewhere and you gotta take an Uber and in the long run, it’s just a lot easier just to drive yourself, even with the traffic,” he said.
Braswell said he is more optimistic about Brightline’s plans to expand into Polk County.
The private rail company is expected to begin service out of Orlando in June.