SunRail has received approval from the US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the construction of a 5.5-mile commuter rail link to Orlando International Airport (OIA).

With the approval, the airport link project moves into the project development (PD) phase of the federal Small Starts process.

According to the members of Florida’s congressional delegation, the project could cost around $225m. The state transportation officials can apply for $75m in funding from the FTA, while the remaining would come from state and local sources.

The new east-west rail link will connect the airport to the north-south running commuter rail system, which started operating last year.

“Bringing SunRail into OIA remains my top priority for the future of our Central Florida fixed transportation system.”

US Representative for Florida’s seventh congressional district John Mica said: “The approval of the SunRail Connector to the Orlando International Airport by FTA, which was announced today, is a significant step for developing a truly regional system.

“This will allow us to dramatically increase service and access to the new intermodal centre at the airport, which is now under construction.

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By GlobalData

“Bringing SunRail into OIA remains my top priority for the future of our Central Florida fixed transportation system.”

The SunRail team submitted a request to the FTA in September to move the project, also known as Phase III, into project development.

With the FTA approval, MetroPlan Orlando, the state and the region’s transportation planning agency will carry out work on cost analysis, environmental studies, early engineering, operations planning and more preliminary work.

In 2013, Bombardier won a $195m contract from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to provide operations and maintenance services for the SunRail commuter project.

As part of the ten-year service deal, Bombardier was responsible for providing operations, dispatching, fleet and track maintenance, customer service, station platform and facility maintenance, as well as material supply.