City, county leaders discuss where Virgin Trains will go

All aboard! Sit back, relax and get out of traffic. 

High-speed trains are coming and will run at more than 100 miles per hour, but will they take you where you need to go?

City and county leaders want them, but where they run is still not quite on track.

With rail construction already underway at Orlando International Airport, Orlando and Orange County officials are cruising to the next phase of the Virgin train between Orlando and Tampa, mapping out exactly where it would run.

“The area’s growing very quickly. We can’t just continue to widen roads forever,” said Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey.

City and county leaders are weighing two options. 

The south route would leave the airport and run adjacent to the 417. 

That could include a transfer to SunRail at the Meadow Woods station.

“Just through a platform connection, but we believe that's a tremendous win for the community and it's a great benefit to us,” said Executive Vice President of Rail Infrastructure at Virgin Trains USA Adrian Share. 

“Making sure that SunRail is connected to the airport is my primary concern,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The north route is another option, running adjacent to the 528 with a potential stop near the Orange County Convention Center, which sparked interest for Commissioner VanderLey. 

“My sense of it would be that there may be more ridership for it, but maybe not. If they have a stop that’s closer to Disney, then maybe that gets the most ridership.” 

But, that's estimated to cost between $500 million to $600 million more and require eight more miles of track.

City and county leaders say Virgin Trains has more homework to do, so the project doesn’t get derailed. 

“What they didn’t share is what the expected ridership would be on each leg, the north leg and the south leg, and I felt like that was a big piece of missing information,” VanderLey said.

Mayor Dyer says he hopes to have a decision about exactly where the Virgin Trains will run and stop by the end of the year.