By Dan Tracy
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If the All Aboard Florida train becomes a reality, the system linking Orlando International Airport with Miami would generate $145 million in fares annually by 2018, according to records filed by the company with the state.
With one-way tickets estimated in the $100 range, that would mean the Coral Gables-based company is expecting to carry nearly 1.5 million passengers between Central and South Florida within three years of its inaugural trip in 2015.
All Aboard Florida also is seeking a 99-year lease, presumably for free or a token payment, to lay down tracks along the south edge of the BeachLine Expressway, which runs from Interstate 4 south of downtown Orlando to Cocoa on the east coast.
Those details were revealed in an 81-page proposal All Aboard Florida sent the state Department of Transportation last month. The document was released to the public after the company was given the go-ahead by the state to open talks for securing the BeachLine property.
Spokeswoman Ali Soule said her company would not comment publicly about the train until negotiations are complete. “Everything in that document is all we have to say right now,” she said.
The project’s cost has been pegged at $1.5 billion, up from an original estimate of $1 billion. Soule would not say why the number grew.
All Aboard is seeking to become the nation’s first privately financed passenger-rail system to operate successfully since the automobile became the prime choice of travelers. Government typically underwrites mass-transit systems because they are so expensive to build and operate.
The only private system to open recently was a 3.9-mile monorail line behind the Las Vegas strip of casinos in 2004. It has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since 2010.
All Aboard Florida told the state in its proposal that a financial plan is still being developed. It was based in part on interviews with nearly 10,000 travelers in Florida.
Company executives are bullish because a sister company, Florida East Coast Railway, already owns about 200 miles of track from Miami to Cocoa. That could dramatically reduce startup costs.
The FEC railroad runs about 10 freight trains a day in the corridor, down from a high of 23 in 2006, according to another set of documents about the project filed with the state.
Keith Dierkx, who directs IBM’s global rail innovation center, said All Aboard Florida has a good shot at success, given its railroad experience and that it would offer a “seamless travel” option at Orlando’s airport, where visitors can get off a plane and catch a train to another destination or vice versa.
“In principle, I don’t think there are any obstacles to doing this privately,” Dierkx said.
The state and Orlando’s expressway authority, joint owners of the BeachLine, have indicated they would give up the right of way for next to nothing, but the train would have to be built to accommodate future expansion of the toll road.
That means sections of the track would either have to be elevated or placed beneath proposed or improved interchanges. Some experts say that could increase the cost per mile from $5 million to $30 million along the BeachLine.
All Aboard also would have to pay for stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and at OIA.
The airport, which is considering construction of a new southern terminal, would be responsible for building a milelong, elevated monorail to serve the station at a cost of $181.4 million. OIA also would be responsible for roads and other infrastructure costs of about $78 million.
In addition, a 3,500-space garage and depot would cost $210.7 million, OIA estimates. About 80 percent of that expense would be the garage, presumably leaving the rest for All Aboard.
Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said talks continue with train officials but did not offer specifics.
All Aboard says it intends to compete with airlines flying between Orlando and South Florida. The train trip would take about three hours, as opposed to four hours by car. Top speed could be 125 mph.
Construction could start as early as next year if agreements can be reached with the state, the expressway authority and the airport.