LAKELAND, Fla. — Lakeland city commissioners are pledging to do all they can to make sure the city gets a stop on a possible passenger rail system connecting Orlando to Tampa.
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- Lakeland mayor says city will be aggressive with approach
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The private Brightline system is already connecting Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and it will soon start construction on a route connecting South Florida to Orlando.
It is also negotiating with the Florida Department of Transportation for right of way along Interstate 4 to connect Orlando to Tampa.
“Everything is first class,” said Brightline company representative Bob O’Malley as he briefed commissioners Monday about a possible Lakeland stop.
“And we’ll look at stops along the way between Orlando and Tampa where there is enough demand and interest to have a station at some point in the future,” he said after the meeting.
Mayor Bill Mutz spoke about how much the city would be willing to do to entice the company.
“As aggressive as possible," he said. “We want to do what’s appropriate with a private partnership.”
Brightline said its fast passenger rail service in South Florida is going well. O’Malley said one way the company will make money with its rail system would be to develop property around its terminals. That could determine where it might make a Lakeland stop.
“So if you look at we’ve done in Miami and our other stations, we’ve developed apartment buildings, office buildings and retail,” said O’Malley.
Brightline expects to start construction very soon on its South Florida to Orlando system and could start construction on an Orlando to Tampa line in several years.
The company will partner with Richard Branson’s Virgin organization and will be rebranded Virgin Trains USA.