The builders of a privately financed train linking South Florida with Orlando International Airport have applied for a federal loan to help pay for the $1.5 billion project.
Karen Hedlund, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, on Monday confirmed the application but would not go into detail, saying she couldn't because the document contains proprietary information.
Calls to the train company, All Aboard Florida based in Coral Gables, were not returned. The paperwork was filed Friday, Hedlund said.
The railroad administration website indicates the loan repayment can stretch as long as 35 years at low interest rates. Among other uses, loans can be granted to acquire new facilities or improve existing ones.
The largest loan approved by the government in recent years was nearly $563 million to Amtrak in 2011. The smallest was more than $56,000 to C&J Railroad in the Mississippi Delta.
The railroad agency is committed to having trains provide an alternative to airports and more road construction, Hedlund said. Trains are especially adept at moving people on trips that last three hours or less and cover no more than 500 miles, she said.
"We see rail as the transportation mode of the future," said Hedlund, who was in Orlando to address a meeting of transportation executives and government officials.
All Aboard Florida, owned by Florida East Coast Industries, anticipates competing with airlines flying between Orlando and South Florida. By train, the trip would take about three hours, with top speeds of 125 mph.
No privately run train offering passenger service has operated successfully since the automobile became the main choice of travelers. Government typically helps pay for mass-transit systems because they are so expensive to build and operate.
A sister company of All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Railway, owns about 200 miles of track from Miami to Cocoa. From there, the train would travel west along the BeachLine Expressway to the airport.
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