After years of planning and construction, residents across the region got their first peek at what will soon be an alternative means of transportation for their daily ride to work: the SunRail commuter train.
Elected officials joined more than 500 residents in downtown Winter Park for the unveiling of the train Saturday afternoon.
Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley has high hopes for SunRail. He said he expects it to bring more job opportunities for the unemployed but also wants it to become a primary form of transportation for those who already commute to work.
"It will certainly be the backbone of Central Florida," Bradley said before cutting the ribbon, opening the doors to the train and allowing the public to walk aboard for the first time.
Chuck and Melissa Malani of Winter Park came to Saturday's unveiling with their two young children.
Both parents commute to work and said they intend to give the SunRail a try.
"I want to see if it's something we can use frequently," Chuck Malani said.
Each of the double-decker commuter-train cars can comfortably seat 150 people.
Riders will have access to free Wi-Fi, and officials say there will be several electrical outlets on the train for passengers to charge laptops and other mobile devices.
By spring, people will be able to use the first of the project, which includes 32 miles of railway that will take commuters to 12 stations from DeBary to Sand Lake Road near Orlando from Monday through Friday.
It will cost $2 to board the train plus an extra $1 charge each time the train crosses into another county, said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson.
The second phase of the SunRail project is expected to open in 2016.
It will lengthen the railway to 61.5 miles and span from the DeLand Amtrak station to Poinciana in Osceola County, with a total of 17 stops along the way.
It would cost $5 each way to ride the train from DeLand to Poinciana.
Chuck Malani said he would also consider using the train to get to the Amway Center for Orlando Magic games.
Olson said initially the train will mostly be for those commuting to work and school.
But if it's successful, he added, SunRail could be expanded and run on weekends.
Although the debut was in Winter Park, officials from other cities were excited about the potential for jobs in their areas as well.
Jo Ann Lucarelli, Lake Mary's deputy mayor, said she hopes SunRail will spur growth and redevelopment in her city.
With only about seven months before the first wave of residents can ride, Lucarelli said she and her staff have already started to work with businesses to create a plan to make it easy for employees who use the train to get to work from the nearest station.
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