State extends negotiation period with Brightline for Orlando-Tampa rail connection
July 26, 2021 - Miami-based intercity rail system Brightline will need more time to move forward with an Orlando to Tampa rail connection. The Florida Department of Transportation and Brightline LLC have been working diligently to execute a phased lease agreement by July 31 that would provide intercity passenger rail from Tampa to Orlando; however, there's a bump in the road. Recently, the Federal Railroad Administration indicated Brightline will need to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) for the proposed connection. This change in the environmental document will result in additional time needed to complete the National Environmental Policy Act process and will include additional hearings to address potential public concerns. The new date to execute a lease agreement is set for Sept. 30, according to a July 23 dated letter from FDOT. "With this short extension, the Department leadership also requests we meet as soon as possible with Brightline leadership as we finalize the agreement and chart out our path forward. We believe this short extension should strengthen our agreement, maintain momentum for the project and allow us to focus on key next steps," the letter read.