GOVERNOR Jeb Bush announced on August 2 plans to develop commuter rail services in central Florida under a complex deal totalling almost $1bn.

The plan calls for development of a north-south route through Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties to relieve congestion on Interstate 4. Half of the $475m cost will come from the federal government, with the state providing 25% and county and city governments the rest. The state will also cover operating expenses until 2015.

Florida Department of Transportation will manage the design, construction and operation of the commuter rail service. Due to open in late 2009, the 50 km initial segment would run from DeBary to Orlando serving 10 stations. Maintenance facilities would be located at Sanford. A five-station, 37 km extension from Orlando to Poinciana Industrial Park, south of Kissimmee, is expected to follow in late 2013.

Trains of three double-deck coaches will run at 30 min headways at peak travel times, and every 2h during the middle of the day. Average weekday ridership is estimated at around 9 000 passengers.

The state will purchase the 98 km right-of-way from CSX Transportation for $150m and spend $318m to expand capacity on other routes. In exchange, CSX has agreed to keep freight off the line through Orlando and Winter Park from 05.00 to 10.00 and from 15.00 to 22.00. The Class I will have exclusive use from midnight to 05.00 and shared use at other times.

H On the same day, CSX announced that it had agreed to transfer control of the 130 km Miami - West Palm Beach line used by Tri-Rail commuter services to South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. The state purchased the route several years ago, but operations were still managed from the CSX dispatching centre in Jacksonville. n