ORLANDO-Florida Central Railroad officials aren’t giving up on their idea for a 30-mile daily commuter train running from Downtown through seven northwest Orange and Lake County cities, a $64 million concept that has been rejected by Lynx, the regional transportation authority here. The tracks are already in place.

Florida Central vice president Ben Biscan couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn when a new proposal would be presented.

But area commercial real estate developers who had hoped the line would usher in a new wave of development through the two-county area tell GlobeSt.com the plan is still alive.

“It was shot down because Lynx people figured the idea wouldn’t sell to the state and federal governments which together have millions to contribute to such a venture,” a developer familiar with the railroad’s plans tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “Lynx could have picked up the ball and ran with this one if they wanted to.”

Lynx staffers could also not be reached for comment. But a recent Lynx reports notes the $64 million startup cost is nine times less than the $576 million light-rail plan that local government officials rejected two years ago. That line would have run from tourist-intense International Drive in south Orlando to Downtown.

But the operating cost of the International Drive line would have been $2 per rider compared to an estimated $9 per rider on the commuter train route. Lynx buses that operate throughout Central Florida have a per-rider cost of $3 to $3.50 per rider.

“That’s what the Florida Central Railroad have to improve on, the per-rider cost,” a local land planner not associated with the project directly tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “They somehow have to get that cost down to at least $2 or $3 per passenger, even though transportation modes like this one can never really pay for themselves anyway–they always have to be subsidized.”

The Lynx report estimates daily ridership between now and 2005 on the Orlando to Eustis, FL route would be 1,700 and rise to 2,800 passengers daily by 2020. After leaving Downtown, the train would stop in Lockhart, Apopka, Plymouth, Zellwood, Lake Gem, Tavares and Eustis.

The existing tracks follow the heavily-trafficked U.S. 441 North and South route. Relieving vehicular congestion on U.S. 441 is the primary goal of the commuter line.

“We envision numerous retail development at the seven station stops and possibly some recreation development,” a developer who has built projects in both Lake and Orange counties tells GlobeSt.com.

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