Former Disney exec to run statewide rail project, “All Aboard Florida”

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All Aboard Florida, a privately funded $1 billion passenger railroad project that would connect Orlando to Miami, and possibly Tampa, named onetime Disney executive Donald Robinson co-president and chief operating officer.

A wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, All Aboard Florida also promoted executive P. Michael Reininger to president and chief development officer. Reininger joined All Aboard Florida in 2012.

Robinson will focus on developing the operational functions for the project, the release states, while, Reininger will work on rail infrastructure, stations, and transit-oriented real estate development. The executives, the company says, will jointly define All Aboard Florida’s brand and customer experience. 

Robinson previously ran hotel operations for Walt Disney World, which encompassed 16 hotels and more than 400 retail and dining facilities. He also led the openings and development of Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland, according to the release. Reininger also worked for the Disney Co., in addition to senior management roles with MGM Resorts International and The St. Joe Co.

“Both Don and Mike have successfully developed consumer brands and introduced unique customer experiences to the travel industry,” Florida East Coast President and CEO Vincent Signorello says in the release. “Their partnership will ensure that our intercity passenger rail project sets the new world standard for travel and hospitality.”

The All Aboard Florida project, according to Florida East Coast executives, has no plans to seek public funding for any phase of the project, from construction to future maintenance. The past few large-scale rail service projects in the state have failed to get traction, in part because the proposals included taxpayer-funded elements.

The service will initially use 200 miles of track between Cocoa and Miami that Florida East Coast already owns. The company says it will build 40 miles of new track to connect Cocoa to Orlando. The firm hopes to eventually extend the Orlando tracks northeast, to Jacksonville, and west, to Tampa. Florida East Coast officials say the project could create 6,000 construction jobs, and another 1,000 jobs to operate the system.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.