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SUNRAIL EXPANDING NORTH TO DELAND

TEAM FL SunRail Article
July 29, 2021

Located a few miles west of downtown DeLand, near the intersection of Old New York Avenue and Grand Avenue South, the planned DeLand Station will expand commuter rail service between the DeBary Station and the DeLand Amtrak Station on the existing Central Florida Rail Corridor (CFRC). This 12-mile construction project will bring service to connect an entirely new network of Central Florida communities.

Officials expect to see rail on the ground and the initiation of other construction components as soon as February 2022, with completion currently scheduled for mid-2024. Project completion will serve as an important milestone for Central Florida’s commuter rail line, successfully completing the initial vision for the system.

Since 2014, the region has been anticipating the northern expansion of Central Florida’s first commuter rail system, initially developed with 12 stations, and expanded to 16 stations in 2018 through the southern expansion. The decision to take SunRail’s current operating system further into Volusia County was voted for unanimously by the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission (CFCRC), the SunRail advisory board of elected leaders from the five local funding partners.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District Five Secretary, Jared W. Perdue, P.E. shares, “FDOT took the Phase 2 North project through a Value Engineering Process in collaboration with the local funding partners to fully evaluate multiple station design options that fulfill the goals and objectives of the overall system and provide the best return on investment for the funding partners, the community, and all the residents of Central Florida.”

In addition to station construction, improvements will be applied along the 12 miles of railway between the Debary and DeLand stations to meet operational standards for SunRail service including 6-miles of double track. In addition, safety features such as dynamic envelopes will be implemented at all grade crossings with special consideration for pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Community Value

The vision for SunRail from the very start of planning the rail system was to connect riders to the different communities along the corridor. A commuter rail service like SunRail allows riders that may have had transportation limitations the opportunity to explore a wider job market, expanded options for medical providers, and/or explore new places. In some cases, not only does SunRail potentially offer riders a faster way to travel to their destinations, it also may offer cost savings and more personal free time to enjoy the ride as opposed to sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

SunRail plans to work closely with community partners to cultivate ridership, capture regional excitement, and encourage new opportunities to connect the region. Exploring partnerships and expansion of SunRail’s current community programs is top of mind for SunRail; examples include a “Rider Discount” program championed by local main streets and chambers of commerce to encourage riders to patron participating businesses, and SunRail Safety Watch, a business railroad safety program.

A social media survey conducted by the West Volusia Beacon in March 2021, showed that over 86% of respondents would either begin using SunRail, or use it more often, if there was a DeLand Station. While there is excitement from DeLand and surrounding communities for taking SunRail south, either for work, leisure, or both, there is matched enthusiasm for what SunRail could bring into communities through tourism and transit-oriented development (TOD).

Director of the Mainstreet DeLand Association, Wayne Carter, shared with West Volusia Beacon, “I do think (SunRail will) bring traffic into DeLand from the Orlando area, much like people here like to go down to Winter Park for the day… DeLand has a nice little Downtown that most of the communities in Florida don’t have anything comparable to. We expect a certain amount of tourism, not just for Downtown, but the ecotourism, and all of the other things SunRail could open up.”

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) & Connectivity

Since starting operation in 2014, it is estimated that SunRail has contributed a cumulative $2.4 billion in property value growth across the original phase one, 12-station area, with an increase from July 2018’s southern expansion of four stations still to be determined. The TOD opportunity for areas surrounding the Deland Station may include mixed-use projects featuring apartments, shops, and more within close distance to the station.

The planned expansion provides transit access to most of Central Volusia County, as well as Lake County and a unique redevelopment opportunity for residents and local leaders to serve commuter rail passengers in one of the fastest growing residential areas of the state. The future SunRail station is just a short bicycle ride away from Hontoon Island State Park, Florida Hospital DeLand, the St. Johns River, municipal services and DeLand’s downtown historic district.

Multimodal transportation is essential for connecting communities and providing access to job centers. Expanding accessibility to different populations has been a cornerstone of SunRail’s mission since inception. LYNX and Votran have worked with SunRail to create SunRail Connections (new routes to help serve SunRail passengers), and both LYNX and Votran added SunRail stations into existing routes to expand multimodal access to transit users. SunRail also works in tandem with last-mile providers, including bikeshare and scooter share in downtown Orlando, the Sanford Trolley, and the grant-funded Kissimmee Connector, which reaches major employers and places of interest in Downtown Kissimmee.

SunRail celebrates the growing connections between communities to promote positive economic opportunities, which will continue as regional partners prepare for the transition of SunRail operations to the local funding partners.

Stay Connected

SunRail’s expansion provides direct access to major employers and transit-oriented development across the region while maintaining Volusia’s coveted rural way of life. The Central Florida region is growing at a considerable rate and SunRail delivers a mass transportation solution without the need to widen or construct new roadways. In addition to providing an alternative to roadways, transit-oriented developments along the Central Florida Rail Corridor have improved property values, boosted tax revenues for local municipalities, created new jobs, and increased the diversity of and access to education, healthcare, and housing.

To learn more about SunRail, download the SunRail App and follow @RideSunRail on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.