New Disney World Train Service Will Cost Taxpayers $4.4 Billion

in Walt Disney World

A monorail glides along a track in the foreground with the iconic geodesic sphere of epcot's spaceship earth in the background under a clear blue sky.

Credit: Inside the Magic

The price tag of the new proposed railway service from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the Walt Disney World Resort has been released, and it’s a whopping $4.4 billion.

Statue of walt disney holding hands with mickey mouse in front of cinderella castle at disney world, with a clear blue sky background.
Credit: Disney

Transportation to and from Disney World in Central Florida, Universal, and other tourist attractions has never been easy. The Interstate 4 Highway that leads to Disney World is frequently mired in traffic and high-speed police chases, though Governor Ron DeSantis seems to be willing to help the Mouse out a bit with that.

MCO, a primary entry point for millions of Disney tourists every year, is frequently locked down by extreme weather events and, increasingly, potentially deadly health risks.

It makes sense, then, that the idea of train service directly from the Orlando Airport to Disney World has been tossed around for years. Two frequent complaints heard about the Florida Sunrail system, which connects to MCO, is that it has extremely limited hours and service and doesn’t cover nearly enough destinations in the area.

As Railway Age describes it, “Service on SunRail is limited, concentrating on half-hourly service during peak commuting periods, and including hourly (or slightly less frequent) midday service. The service day ends in mid-evening and runs only on weekdays.”

Map showing a proposed map of the Sunshine Corridor in orlando, with key locations like disney springs, orange county convention center, and orlando international airport marked, including a legend for route types.
Credit: Florida Department of Transportation

Related: Disney World is Facing a Workers Shortage, And Now We Know Why

The Central Florida Sunshine Corridor proposal is an attempt to do something about this, but a recent Central Florida Commuter Rail Board meeting reveals that the cost for taxpayers will be significant. The website for Sunshine Corridor describes it as:

The Sunshine Corridor is a multimodal passenger rail program. It proposes expanding premium passenger rail transportation to improve mobility, connectivity, and accessibility to major employment centers while stimulating economic development opportunities to support the rapidly growing Central Florida region.

The Sunshine Corridor Program includes expanding the existing SunRail commuter rail service to connect to Orlando International Airport (MCO), then west to the Orange County Convention Center, then southwest to South International Drive, and potentially the Disney Springs areas. Ultimately, it would provide direct transfers to the privately operated Brightline intercity passenger rail system connecting Miami and Orlando, with a proposed connection to Tampa in the future.

WFTV9 reports:

Sunrail’s current ridership is about one million people per year. Just extending the train service to the airport would jump ridership to approximately 3.7 million people in the first year of service, and 5.2 million by 2040. That stretch alone is expected to cost the service $2 billion, which leaders hope to fund through a combination of public and private dollars.”

“Much of that expense would come from an expected decision to elevate the train tracks to avoid road crossings, which has been a key request of Brightline, which wants to use the tracks when it expands service to Tampa. Adding service to I-drive, Universal, the Convention Center and Disney Springs could bump ridership up to 6.4 million commuters in the first year of service and 9.4 million by 2040.”

A bustling main street filled with visitors leading up to a fairy tale castle under a blue sky, capturing the magic of a famous theme park.
Credit: Ben, Flickr

It is not hugely unusual for large-scale projects that will benefit private companies like Disney and Universal to be funded at least in part by taxpayers. Most frequently, this is seen in the form of “stadium subsidies,” through which professional sports teams persuade cities like Chicago and Los Angeles to pay for new areas with the promise that they will stimulate the local economy.

Related: Warning Issued to Guests Visiting Disney World Resort, Effective Until September 2025

That particular approach to funding infrastructure to get more tourists into an area is swiftly becoming controversial, and it would not be at all surprising that some eyebrows are raised at this $4.4 billion price tag to get a direct train service from MCO to Disney World and Univeral.

Commission officials say they are now in the process of seeking federal assistance for the new Sunshine Corridor proposal and will return to the idea in the summer.

Do you think that a direct Disney train service should be publicly funded? Tell us in the comments below!

The full Sunshine Corridor proposal can be read here:

View Comments (2)