The first Central Florida sighting of the SunRail commuter train — at least part of it — is only a few weeks away.
A rail car with all the official decals and splashes of yellow, blue and orange paint is about to depart the upstate New York plant where it was assembled. First local stop: Sanford.
Though the nearly 1,400-mile trek would take 20 hours of nonstop driving in an automobile, the SunRail car will be hitching rides with a variety of trains working their way south. That means delivery might not occur until next month.
"It's not necessarily direct freight," said Steve Olson, a spokesman with the Florida Department of Transportation, which is in charge of getting the $1.2 billion SunRail project rolling.
The car will be unveiled Central Florida transportation officials in August in Sanford, along with SunRail's new dispatch and control center.
Many Metro Orlando residents have watched the system take shape in recent months as construction crews laid new tracks and built stations on a 31-mile stretch from DeLand in Volusia County through downtown Orlando to south Orange County.
But seeing the car will be a different matter entirely. That is what people actually will board, take a seat on and then peer out the windows of as the train goes from one depot to the next.
"I hope I'm one of the first who gets to ride," said Lennon Moore, who lives near the Winter Park SunRail stop and owns an antiques shop close to the train stop at Florida Hospital north of downtown Orlando.
She plans to ride SunRail daily.
"I won't need my car," she said. "I think, over time, it is going to be a great success."
Technically, the first arrival is a cab car, which means it is one part of what most often will be a three-vehicle configuration. Typically, there will be a diesel locomotive pulling a passenger car and the cab car, which also contains driving controls.
Cab cars allow an engineer to control the train from the rear. That means the train does not have to be turned around for a return trip.
Both the cab and passenger cars have two levels. The cab car seats 132 and the passenger car 150. Each has bathrooms, wireless Internet and room for luggage and bikes.
The cab car is the first of eight others on order, plus five regular coaches. They are being built by Bombardier in Thunder Bay, Ontario, then shipped to Plattsburgh, N.Y., where they are put together. The contract is worth $41 million.
Seven locomotives also are being built by MotivePower company in Boise, Idaho, for $17.5 million. They should start arriving in October.
Test runs of the train could start late this year or early in 2014, with service starting in May. The base fare likely will be $2, with a dollar added when going from one county to next. Discounts will be offered for regular riders and seniors.
SunRail is being touted as an alternative to commuters who drive on Interstate 4, the region's main transportation artery. I-4 is slated for five or six years of construction costing $2 billion starting in 2015.
Supporters say SunRail has the ability to carry the equivalent of one lane of I-4 traffic.
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