Orlando airport prepares for rail connection
TRANSPORTATION: Planes, Meet Train
Orlando International Airport, the nation’s 13th busiest, has started work on a $1.1-billion expansion and renovation to prepare for growth that includes passenger train service from south Florida.
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board members approved the plan even though passenger air traffic at the airport has been flat or has declined for the past several years. Growth will resume, airport officials predict, and a new rail service, All Aboard Florida, which will link Orlando to Miami, adds to the urgency.
“We can’t wait, or else customer service would suffer,” says GOAA Executive Director Phil Brown.
The expansion includes $470 million for an automated peoplemover and tram-rail station on the airport’s south side to connect to the new passenger train. To accommodate international flights — the one sector that has continued growing in recent years — four new gates will be added at a cost of $114 million. And to improve service at the existing north terminal, the airport is renovating ticket lobbies, baggage claim areas and making other improvements.
All of the work is expected to be completed by 2017, in time for the opening of Walt Disney World’s new “Avatar” themed attraction at Animal Kingdom and the additional tourist traffic it is expected to generate.
The new tram-train depot area and 2,400-capacity garage will be adjacent to the site of a future south terminal. Airport directors say final design work for the new terminal will not begin until total passenger traffic at the airport rises to 40 million, from about 35 million in the past year.
The expansion and improvements will be paid for by a combination of government grants, an existing airline passenger fee, bonds to be floated in 2014 and two open lines of credit for interim financing.
“Our goal is to phase in the work and limit the impact on the traveling public as much as possible,” Brown says.
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