TAMPA, Fla. — A higher speed train could connect Tampa and Orlando in the future, making it a faster commute between the two cities.
Wednesday afternoon, a Selection Committee approved for Brightline to start negotiations with FDOT and CFX over leasing the right of way. Authorities said it is a long process and that is the first step to the possibility of having an intercity passenger rail system between those cities.
"I think what is about to occur here -and what is already occurring on the east coast- will connect Florida in ways that we haven't even imagined," Mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, said.
Mayor Buckhorn is on board with the possibility of having a new intercity rail system that would link Tampa and Orlando together.
Brightline already offers trips in South Florida, connecting Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Mayor Buckhorn and other leaders recently checked out the train system in South Florida and he said he saw the kind of impact it could have in the Tampa Bay area.
"I think over time it will become increasingly popular. Driving I-4 through Orlando traffic is not a very pleasant experience," Mayor Buckhorn said.
Mayor Buckhorn sees major benefits for the area -especially around the station that could be built in Tampa in the future. Those benefits include office, retail, residential, and commercial spaces around it.
"I think the challenge will be the last mile connections. What happens when you arrive in each of those cities? How do you get around," he said.
The mayor said the referendum that passed locally a few weeks ago will help solve some of those possible issues by making sure there is money available.
"This project will be a game changer (and) will be a changer for downtown Tampa," Mayor Buckhorn said.
Some commuters said they are tired of the I-4 traffic.
"It doesn't matter what time it is (or) what day of the week, it’s always just a nightmare," Margaret Boyett said.
Another commuter, who moved to the Tampa Bay area less than a year ago, said she is in favor of public transportation.
"I would love a high speed train to go from here to Orlando," Erica Hall said.
According to state officials, Brightline has 90 days to negotiate with them and CFX on the lease for the right of way. ABC Action News learned that deadline could be extended, if everyone agrees.