TRANSIT: Florida’s SunRail looks to expand

June 8, 2015

Officials have announced their intention to seek $70 million in funding to move forward with expansion planning

In Orlando, Fla., commuter rail may well get a big boost, if SunRail officials' intentions come to fruition. At present, the current end of the northbound line is in DeBary, but SunRail officials last Friday formally requested federal money to extend service to DeLand, enabling the agency to service more commuters and with greater frequency.

The federal government has indicated it has $500 million in available grant money, and while SunRail is competing with other requests for the funds, only half of the $70 million it needs to finish Phase 2 of the expansion project will be sought in grant money from the federal government.

“We’re hearing from the city of DeLand that they’re pretty anxious and from the Chamber of Commerce to get this extended to Deland,” Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson said. “We're going to put that application in [today]. We’ll see where it goes. We’ll know more in the fall, and go from there. We’re pretty hopeful.”

Plans to extend the line have been in offing for some time, but concerns about low ridership in Volusia County have caused delays. Comments posted to local news sources have criticized SunRail for not running its present service efficiently and losing too much money in operations to justify further investment. Supporters, however, say construction on I-4 could change that.

If SunRail receives the grant, the trains could be running to DeLand by 2017, officials said.

SunRail said it should know by this fall whether it received the grant. Last month, SunRail received a $93 million grant to extend trains south into Osceola County. 

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