By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Florida approved plans this week for construction of a privately funded electro-magnetic suspension rail line in Orlando, the first of its kind in the United States.
The first phase will be a 13.8-mile elevated track to be constructed at cost of $300 million between Orlando International Airport and the Orlando/Orange County Convention Center, according to American Maglev Technology, which plans to build the system.
The transit technology company projects the system will be profitable, carrying up to 4.1 million passengers a year at a one-way fare of about $10, said AMT Chief Operating Officer Jordan Morris
Orlando's convention center is the nation's second largest, and the train will make an intermediate stop at the Florida Mall, long a destination for international shoppers.
"We think this is the best corridor on the planet as far as ridership goes," said Morris. The company hopes to expand the rail line later to the Orlando theme parks, he said.
The system uses lightweight cars which glide one-centimeter above a steel guide rail through counter-acting forces of 24 electro-magnets and gravity, Morris said.
Marietta, Georgia-based AMT has been promoting the green technology in the United States for 20 years. Such systems are already in use in China, Japan and South Korea, Morris said.
American Maglev proposed the idea in 2012, and was the only bidder on the fixed-guideway transportation system solicited in late 2013 by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
FDOT on Monday gave American Maglev the go-ahead to negotiate right-of-way leases which Morris said he expects will be approved at a nominal fee to the company.
The train likely will originate at the city's airport in a terminal under construction that will also be used by the privately financed All Aboard Florida train planned between Orlando and Miami, Morris said.
The company expects to break ground this fall and be operational by 2017.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Andrew Hay)