Central Florida’s new commuter rail system, SunRail, recently opened for service with a celebratory Whistle Stop Tour that began at DeBary and ended at Orange County’s Sand Lake Road Heart of Pine Castle Station.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was the keynote speaker and host of the historic bell ringing ceremony commemorating the grand opening day. Mayor Jacobs was joined by District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke, District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, District 5 Commissioner Ted Edwards, District 6 Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell, elected officials and distinguished community leaders.
“The SunRail Whistle Stop Tour marked a historic day for Central Florida and the great state of Florida,” Mayor Jacobs said. “SunRail is the perfect example of our local, state and federal partners planting the seeds to bring a monumental transportation project to our region. It’s creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic benefit, not only in Orange County, but also Central Florida. This extraordinary high capacity transportation system will transform our region and sustain economic prosperity in Florida.”
SunRail will provide free rides through May 16 allowing commuters to experience the comfort and ease of traveling on SunRail while becoming familiar with schedules and ticketing systems. SunRail ambassadors will also be available at each station and on board trains to answer any questions that riders may have. Regular service for paying passengers begins on May 19.
“SunRail’s opening signals an opportunity for us to address Orange County’s transportation needs as well as the potential for redevelopment along the route,” said Commissioner Clarke, whose district hosted the event.
Commissioner Thompson echoed those sentiments.
“The enthusiasm for SunRail this first week shows that Central Florida is ready to embrace public transportation,” Commissioner Thompson said. “SunRail is already connecting people to their jobs and destinations and providing a vital link between communities.”
SunRail will connect DeLand in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County when it is fully completed in 2016. Phase 1, which spans 32 miles and comprises 12 stations, connects DeBary with Sand Lake Road, near the Orlando International Airport. Phase 2 begins construction in summer 2014 and will extend the route north to DeLand and south into Poinciana.
“Congratulations to our community for SunRail being open to the public. I look forward to this commuter rail service providing alternative transportation to our residents,” said Commissioner Edwards. “It will hopefully reduce traffic along many of our congested roadways, and encourage our neighbors in Seminole and Volusia Counties to use SunRail to visit Orange County’s many beautiful, walkable communities."
On its first day, SunRail provided service to approximately 10,000 Central Florida residents, many of whom used the commuter rail system to get to and from work during its opening week.
“We have a handful of employees who will be taking SunRail to work,” said Brandon Tidwell, manager of sustainability for Darden Restaurants, Inc., who was in attendance at the grand opening event. “SunRail will provide new connections throughout our community. It is the first step toward mass transit and will provide yet another option to the next generation of commuters.”
For more information on SunRail, please visit www.sunrail.com.