For years, Disney has been working with Brightline to bring a train stop to the Disney Springs area of Walt Disney World Resort. The Brightline currently runs from Miami to West Palm Beach, but has been building track to extend operations all the way to Orlando. Both Disney and Universal were working with the train company to create stops at their respective Resorts, which would give Guests more airports to be able to fly into to get to the parks. However, in a move that not many saw coming, Disney announced that they are pulling out of the project.
The Orlando Sentinel reported on Disney’s decision and, according to Disney, they decided to pull out once they saw new plans for the project and realized the new route would not actually go through Disney. Per The Sentinel:
“As many people who are involved in this project are aware, the new route configuration does not support a Disney Springs station and as a result, we don’t anticipate being part of this project,” said Disney spokesperson Avery Maehrer, who declined to provide further detail.
Disney and Brightline have been in talks since at least 2018 over opening a station on resort property. Brightline expects to start service from South Florida to Orlando International Airport about one year from now and has been deeply engaged in planning for an extension from the airport to Tampa, passing along Interstate 4 near Disney.
But this spring, SunRail and International Drive interests announced planning for a rail corridor from the airport to the tourism district, which includes Universal Orlando, and that Brightline would pivot to cooperate in that route as well. The underlying expectation is for major federal grants to finance much of that corridor.
The new route would take the Brightline through International Drive, which is right near the Universal Orlando Resort, which is why the Resort is still a part of the project. Universal Orlando is currently building a massive third theme park called Epic Universe and will be adding 14,000 new employees in the coming years to work there. Adding in Universal’s employees to the ones who will need to work along the new route, more than 100,000 jobs will be added to the Orlando area in total, which makes the route a necessary one for new employees and Guests as well.
Should Brightline decide to change the route once again and go through Disney Springs as originally planned, it is possible the company could decide to go back in on the project. Disney made it clear that the move to pull out of the project had nothing to do with the issues that the House of Mouse is having with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.