The Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act mandated that the first phase of the system to be built would be from Tampa to Orlando with an extension to St. Petersburg. The Authority refers to the first leg from Tampa to Orlando as Phase 1, Part 1. The extension to St. Petersburg is Phase 1, Part 2. The graphic below indicates the general alignment that was defined in the planning phase for St. Petersburg to Orlando. The white circles indicate possible station locations along the route.
The 2002 Request for Proposals (RFP) required that each Proposer provide a proposal for the alignment from Tampa to Orlando. This alignment utilized the I-4 median from the Tampa area to Orlando International Airport using either SR 417 (the GreeneWay) or SR 528 (the Beeline) in the Orlando area, along with a stop in the Lakeland area. The RFP also allowed for potential station locations near the Osceola County Line (the Walt Disney World area) and the Orange County Convention Center. The Authority identified the alignment that included the SR 417 – GreeneWay route as the preferred alternative at the October 2003 meeting, but changed its preferred alternative to the SR 528 Beeline route in November of 2004.
The now repealed Constitutional Amendment required that a High Speed Rail System be under construction in Florida by November 2003. The Authority has defined the start of construction as the signing of the contract with the Preferred Proposer. The Authority entered into an Environmental Contract with Fluor Bombardier and posted the Notice of Award of the Environmental Contract on November 4, 2003 at 3:45 p.m. This signified the start of construction (as designated by the Authority).
In order for the project to proceed, a Record of Decision must be obtained from the Federal Railroad Administration. Presently, in early 2005, the Authority is in the process of completing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Tampa to Orlando Project Segment to reflect the new preferred route and expects that a Record of Decision will be issued by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2005.
Next steps depend upon action by the Legislature in the 2005 session.