Amtrak Ranks Florida East Coast Line 'Most Promising' For Expansion

Long-discussed plans for returning passenger rail service to Florida's East Coast got new life from an Amtrak report that ranks the dormant West Palm Beach-Jacksonville segment as "the most promising initiative for expansion."

Passenger service on the 350-mile coastal stretch was abandoned in 1968. Amtrak trains currently run between Miami and West Palm Beach, then connect with Jacksonville via an inland route through Orlando.

Florida East Coast Railway and local communities have been investigating a return to passenger service for several years, and this week's Amtrak report was hailed as a significant step. 

“This is great news and reinforces what we know about the project. Passenger service on the FEC corridor will create economic development opportunities from Jacksonville to Miami -- boosting tourism, helping the cruise ship industry, and directly benefiting key destinations like Daytona’s International Speedway," said Doug Smith, a Martin County commissioner.

"It will also help the work force to migrate along the coast, helping regional businesses expand and become more successful," Smith said.

But there's still a long way to go before the concept can become reality.