Poinciana will host the final stop on the SunRail commuter rail line. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
POINCIANA – The SunRail commuter rail line won’t start operating until 2014, while the final stop in Poinciana won’t be on line until 2016.
In the meantime, though, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority is getting ready for it, complete with construction now underway for “an intermodal station right in downtown Kissimmee,” said John Lewis, the chief executive officer of the authority.
Intermodal, of course, refers to transportation by more than one means of conveyance — by rail for freight delivery, for example, then further delivered by truck.
In this case, though, the link is between rail and bus. And it’s being built in anticipation of SunRail, the commuter rail line that will have 18 stops along its 61-mile corridor.
The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority operates the Lynx bus system in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, with some extended bus service in Northeast Polk County. And to ensure the people who get off the trains have the ability to get from the train station to their next destination, Lynx is building an intermodal station in downtown Kissimmee that can transport people to other parts of the county, such as Celebration and Poinciana.
“The Kissimmee intermodal station is under construction now, and will be open next year,” Lewis said. “It will be our new bus center. We will use it as a link to SunRail.”
That project comes about as Lynx, under Lewis’ leadership, aims to expand public transit options throughout Central Florida, as the weak economy and rising gas prices have made it more expensive for some struggling families to maintain a car.
Lewis said he hopes to provide a first class reggional bus system so that Lynx will become “the mode of choice, not the mode of last resort.”
And that will include, he said, providing more service in fast-growing communities underserved by public transit options, like Poinciana.
The community could certainly use that, said Keith Laytham, president of the civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change. The community of 10 villages that crosses Polk and Osceola counties was never built for 84,000 residents and perhaps two to three times as many cars on the local roads – which becomes painfully obvious when the roads get heavily congested during rush hour, he said.
“When we talk about Cypress parkway, it’s 43,000 cars a day, which is a lot, a lot of traffic,” he said. “The roads were not constructed to be commuter traffic roads. They were constructed to be feeder roads for urban areas.”
The final stop on SunRail will be at the intersection of Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail. Lewis said that will offer a lot more options to Poinciana commuters, particularly those trying to get to downtown Orlando.
“SunRail is coming pretty soon, and we’ll have our intermodal system in Kissimmee,” Lewis said. “SunRail coming on line is a very exciting program. We’re looking forward to when SunRail comes and opens here in Osceola County and how we are going to provide access to the Poinciana station line.”
Lynx is also taking over part of the Wal-Mart property in Poinciana so the agency can bring more buses to the community, he said.
“We will be taking over a portion of the parking lot where all of our bus services will be coming into that,” Lewis said.
Each SunRail station is expected to offer the potential for an enormous amount of new mixed use development that brings new businesses and jobs to the station locations. A study by Metroplan, the regional transportation partnership agency in Orlando, found that these stations have the potential for enormous economic activity being generated all around them.
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