Brightline

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Brightline
220px
Overview
Service type Higher speed rail
Status Under construction
Locale Florida
First service
  • Miami to West Palm Beach - Early 2017 (Planned)[1]
  • Miami to Orlando - Late 2017 (Planned)[2]
Current operator(s) Florida East Coast Industries (FECI)
Ridership 3 million per year (Predicted)
Website www.allaboardflorida.com
Route
Start Miami (Planned)
Stops 4 (planned)
End Orlando (Planned)
Distance travelled 240 mi (390 km) (Planned)
Average journey time 3 Hours (Planned)
Service frequency 16 per day (Planned)
On-board services
Disabled access Fully ADA compliant, level boarding (Planned)
Seating arrangements Ergonomic seating (Planned)
Entertainment facilities Wi-Fi (Planned)
Technical
Rolling stock
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed
  • 79 mph (127 km/h) Miami – West Palm Beach
  • 110 mph (177 km/h) West Palm Beach – Cocoa (Planned)
  • 125 mph (201 km/h) Cocoa – Orlando (Planned)
Track owner(s) Florida East Coast Railway
Route map

Brightline is a higher-speed rail system under construction in Florida. It is being developed by All Aboard Florida, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI).[3] The first phase is planned to connect Miami to Orlando through express intercity service, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Brightline will be the first time a privately owned company in the U.S. has developed and operated an express passenger rail system in over 100 years. The service will use the existing Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) corridor between Miami and Cocoa, while also building a new 40-mile (64 km) stretch of tracks along the State Road 528 corridor between Cocoa and the Orlando International Airport. Brightline has announced its intentions to expand to other cities once the initial phase is complete.

Origins and history

The cost of all construction is projected at $1.5 billion.[4] In March 2013, All Aboard Florida applied for a $1.6 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan, which is administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.[5] In late 2014, the company announced it had applied for a $1.75 billion private activity bond allocation, with proceeds from the bond sale substantially reducing or replacing entirely the amount of the RRIF loan request.[6]

The company received a Finding of No Significant Impact from the Federal Railroad Administration in January 2013, effectively clearing way for work to begin between Miami and West Palm Beach.[7] The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the full build-out service was released in September 2014,[8] and a series of public comment meetings followed. The final report is scheduled to be released sometime in 2015. As of the start of 2015, the company has started site work at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations, plus right of way improvements along stretches of the corridor.

Service is projected to begin between Miami and West Palm Beach in early 2017, followed by service to Orlando in late 2017.[9] On November 10, 2015, All Aboard Florida announced that the service will operate under the name Brightline.[10]

Construction

Construction began on the Miami to West Palm Beach section with the laying of new tracks and closure of the temporary surface lots in Government Center, Downtown Miami, in mid 2014.[2] Heavy construction work on the station subsequently began in November 2014.[citation needed] Suffolk Construction is the general contractor for the Miami station.[11] Piles were being set on the four lots of MiamiCentral in early 2015.[12]

On October 29, 2014, work on the Fort Lauderdale station began with the demolition of existing buildings on the site.[13] A groundbreaking ceremony for the West Palm Beach station was held in November 2014.[14] Moss & Associates, of Fort Lauderdale, has been named general contractor for the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations.[15]

In January 2015, crews started replacing track throughout the corridor. The system between Miami and West Palm Beach is expected to be operational by early 2017 and to Orlando by late 2017. All Aboard Florida secured leasing the easement rights from alongside the Beachline from the Central_Florida_Expressway_Authority for $1.4 Million in December of 2015. As part of the contract, “it is understood and agreed” All Aboard Florida will be considering an extension to Jacksonville, Florida.[16]

Engineering

Train speeds

To cover the distance between Orlando and Miami in the desired time of about three hours, Brightline trains will have to operate with an overall average speed of 80 miles per hour (129 km/h), which is similar to the overall average speed of the Acela Express operating on the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Washington, DC.[17][18] By comparison, the approximate driving time for this distance is about four hours.[19]

Train speeds may reach up to 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) between Miami and West Palm Beach, 110 miles per hour (177 km/h) between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, and 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) between Cocoa and the Orlando International Airport. In order to increase the speed limit from 79 miles per hour (127 km/h) to 110 miles per hour (177 km/h) between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, the existing track conditions will be brought up to meet required federal standards.

Pre-existing Miami-Cocoa Corridor upgrades

The project calls for more than $1.5 billion in upgrades to the rail corridor between Miami and Cocoa. The company is double tracking the corridor, improving signaling systems, and upgrading every grade crossing to meet the highest applicable safety standards set by the Florida Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration.[20][21] In January 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Miami-Cocoa phase of the project, effectively clearing the way for work to begin.[22]

Quiet zones

Responding to citizen concerns about increased noise from additional horns, All Aboard Florida has stated that it will work with local communities to implement quiet zones where possible.[23] Federal law requires quiet zone requests to originate from the local authority that has jurisdiction over the roadway, not the railroad company.[24]

In August 2014, the company announced a partnership with the Broward and Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organizations to implement quiet zones between the City of Hallandale Beach and 15th Street in West Palm Beach.[25] In December 2014, the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization approved funding to construct quiet zones between PortMiami and the northern Miami-Dade County line.[26] The quiet zones will be in place when Brightline becomes operational between Miami and West Palm Beach by early 2017. Part of the corridor safety upgrades includes installing positive train control (PTC), which will enhance Brightline's ability to monitor and control train movements safely.[27]

Bridges

The FEC rail corridor includes a number of fixed-span bridges that will be replaced as part of the project. Most do not require United States Coast Guard (USCG) permitting as they do not span significant navigable waterways and clearances won’t change. Twelve other bridges—St. Johns River, Eau Gallie River, St. Sebastian River, Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, West Palm Beach Canal, Boynton Canal, Middle River (both the North and South Fork), Oleta River, Arch Creek and Hillsboro Canal—will require permitting by the USCG. In addition, the project calls for significant investment and upgrades to three moveable bridges: St. Lucie, Loxahatchee, and New River. These improvements will ensure that bridge mechanical systems for raising and lowering the bridge spans are either fully upgraded or replaced. All Aboard Florida has stated that, prior to it becoming operational, it will start to regularly notify mariners of scheduled bridge closings via the internet, smart phone application and countdown signage on the bridges to enable mariners to have real-time information to decrease wait times at each bridge. Also, the company will station a bridge tender at the New River bridge.[28]

Cocoa-Orlando

The proposed line between Cocoa and Orlando is the only segment that does not have existing track or right-of-way owned by FEC. Originally, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) believed it could accommodate building new tracks for the project within the BeachLine Expressway's 300 ft-wide right of way. However, it determined that the right of way was too narrow to accommodate the tracks, additional utility lines, and any future roadway expansions. Deseret Ranch, which owns the land just south of the BeachLine, and CFX began negotiations to purchase an additional 200 ft for the corridor. As of a pact made on July 16, 2013, CFX tentatively agreed to pay $12 million for an extra 200 ft along the 22-mile BeachLine corridor between Cocoa to the Orlando International Airport.[29] In early October 2013, CFX and All Aboard Florida reached a formal purchase agreement for the land required for the right-of-way. Although construction was slated to originally begin in early 2015, this date has been pushed back until the FRA releases the project's final Environmental Impact Statement.

Also in October, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) board approved development of a station and maintenance facility on Orlando International Airport property, as well as an easement to build track between the station and the mainline to the coast.[30]

This segment of the proposed line will operate at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) and will nearly meet the United States Code's definition of high-speed rail, which includes rail services that are "reasonably expected to reach sustained speeds of more than 125 miles per hour".[31] The Congressional Research Service also uses the term "higher" speed rail for top speeds up to 150 miles per hour (241 km/h).[32]

Maintenance

All Aboard Florida is constructing two maintenance facilities for their Brightline service. The first is a Running Repair Facility in West Palm Beach, Florida designed for maintenance and minor repair work that does not require the train to be removed from service. It has been under construction since at least January 2016 at 601 15th Street on a 12-acre site with vintage industrial buildings that will be renovated for the site, north of the West Palm Beach station. The site will be able to handle four 10-car train sets, and includes a maintenance pit for access to the underside of the trains. More extensive maintenance/repair will be accomplished at a second site near the Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal[33]

Service

Schedule

Brightline trains will run at approximately one-hour intervals with 16 northbound and 16 southbound trips each day.[34] Although the corridor will be shared with freight trains, few delays are expected as freight trains travel on the FEC at relatively high speeds.[35]

Rolling stock

File:Artistic rendering of Siemens Charger locomotives.jpg
Siemens Charger locomotives similar to those that will be used for Brightline. The project has not finalized designs yet for its locomotives or passenger coaches

In September 2014, All Aboard Florida announced an order of five Siemens trainsets. Each Brightline train set will initially consist of five passenger coaches, with a Siemens Charger diesel locomotive on each end. The coaches will feature ergonomic seating, wi-fi, level boarding, and meet ADA compliance standards. The entire trainset, including passenger cars, will be manufactured by Siemens in its solar-powered plant in Florin, California. Once the route to Orlando is in operation, the trainsets will be expanded to seven coaches, and five more complete trainsets will be purchased.[36][37]

Stations

The three South Florida stations are being designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in association with Zyscovich Architects.[38]

FECI owns the former site of its downtown Miami station (FECI has since purchased approximately seven acres of land in downtown Fort Lauderdale and two acres in downtown West Palm Beach to build stations in those cities). The nine-acre parcel adjacent to Government Center had been used for years as surface parking and under construction. The site is zoned for 2,500,000 sq ft (232,258 m2) of development.[39] The system would also connect with the existing Metrorail and Metromover systems. The downtown Miami station is called MiamiCentral.[40] Site work on the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach station sites began at the end of 2014.

Miami

The downtown Miami station, known as MiamiCentral (not to be confused with Miami Central Station near Miami International Airport), will span nine acres and be located just east of Miami-Dade County Hall and will include 3 million square feet of mixed-use development with residential, office and commercial, and a retail concourse. The station will connect Brightline with the Metrorail, Metromover, County bus and City of Miami trolley systems.[41] The new Brightline station will officially connect the following transit modes: 2 Metrorail stations, 2 Metromover stations, Metrobus, and the future Tri-Rail station. This will increase connections to activities and tourist destinations, including the Performing Arts Center, Bayside Market and Bayfront Park.

Fort Lauderdale

The Fort Lauderdale station will be located at NW 2nd Avenue between Broward Boulevard and NW 4th Street. The four-acre station site will have a 60,000-square-foot station and platform. The Brightline train service in Ft. Lauderdale will connect to the Sun Trolley, Broward County Transit system, future Wave Streetcar and planned Tri-Rail Coastal Link station. Brightline also owns about three acres of land to the east of the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, where there are plans to build a transit oriented development.[42]

West Palm Beach

The West Palm Beach station will be located between Datura and Evernia Streets and to the west of Quadrille. The two-acre station site will have a 60,000-square-foot station and platform that will connect with the neighborhood’s existing vehicular, trolley and pedestrian networks and establish links to the Tri-Rail, Palm Tran Downtown Trolley and Amtrak West Palm Beach station.[43]

Orlando

The Orlando station will be included as part of the new Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal that is currently under construction at Orlando International Airport.[44] In Orlando, Brightline service would connect to the SunRail commuter rail system at the Orlando International Airport's new South Airport Intermodal Terminal, if an airport connection is to be built by SunRail.[19]

Future expansion

Brevard County is lobbying for a Brightline stop as part of the expansion to Orlando and elsewhere, as the line will pass through the county.[45] The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization has selected a site on Clearlake Road in Cocoa as its proposal to Brightline.[46] Brighline has announced intentions to expand to other areas when the initial phase is complete. Jacksonville is a likely expansion destination, as the Florida East Coast Railway already owns tracks running there.[47][48] Brightline officials indicated that Tampa Bay Area is also a desirable future location, although the infrastructure does not currently exist.[47]

See also

References

Route map: Bing / Google

[49]

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External links