When the Obama administration announced there was $8 billion in the stimulus package for funding High Speed Rail projects, there was good reason to hope that Central Florida would be receive part of that funding. Now that hope has been given a shot in the arm by the addition of support from the regions 800 lb Gorilla – Walt Disney World.
Disney World was against the previous effort to bring high speed rail to the region because it included a stop near Universal Studios at the Orange County Convention Center; although the reason they gave today for their previous opposition was that they didn’t want a project that would detract, rather than complement, a commuter rail project. Now that there is a good chance the commuter rail project will be approved, Disney no longer opposes the convention center stop. That stop should also put Universal Studios and SeaWorld in the ‘yes’ column for High Speed Rail as well.
The second big sign that Disney World is on board is their willingness to give up to 50 acres of the Walt Disney World property to host a station for the resort area stop. There was no announcement as to where the station would be, but since the train will run down the middle of I-4 for most of the route, it’s likely Disney would want to donate a part of the property they own on the other side of Hwy-192 next to Celebration.
Now I have to wonder if WDW will light a fire under its committee that has been studying the concept of adding a PRT system to the resort. This would be similar to what Disney has called a ‘Peoplemover’ system in the past. I also think that a light rail system running from Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Downtown Disney would be a great addition.
More on the High Speed Rail project and what it means for Central Florida in the Orlando Sentinel.