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Nation's Only Privately Funded Express Rail Service to Launch in July

Good and bad news for followers of Brightline, a South Florida rail start-up. Service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale begins in July, with Miami soon thereafter, but opponents may hamper extension to Orlando.
March 15, 2017, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Brightline plans to start service between Fort Lauderdale and Miami in August or September, Brightline marketing officer Julie Edwards told the Urban Land Institute for Southeast Florida and the Caribbean" on March 10, report Jennifer Sorentrue and Tony Doris for the Palm Beach Post. 

Travel between West Palm Beach and Miami will be about an hour, with trains not exceeding 79 miles per hour. Ticket prices haven't been determined yet. See map (pdf) showing service area.

Brightline is "anticipating a grand opening and official launch of the train service in September" after service to Miami has been launched, according to All Aboard Florida, the company behind the new service.

More good news: Brightline's second trainset arrived on Monday from Sacramento, California, where they are manufactured at a Siemens USA factory, notes a press release. Each trainset is composed of four passenger cars and two locomotives.

“It is exciting to reach another important Brightline milestone as BrightPink [named for color of cars] arrives in Florida,” said Brightline CEO David Howard. The first trainset, "BrightBlue", arrived in January.

"In all, five trains are expected to arrive in South Florida before the company launches the first leg of its passenger service this summer," add Sorentrue and Doris.

Eventually, Brightline plans to expand service north to Orlando.

Track work for the second phase of the project, which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun. Treasure Coast leaders are challenging that stretch of the project, and have filed a federal lawsuit to block bonds that the company had planned to use to pay for the construction.

And that brings up the bad news for the privately funded railway — new legislation "could threaten its expansion to Orlando and other points across the state," reports Sorentrue on Tuesday.

The bill (SB 386), dubbed the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, winning support from the Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

“What this bill does is create a climate for many years of legal and administrative challenges,” Rusty Roberts, vice president of government affairs for All Aboard Florida, said.

According to the legislative analysis (pg. 7 of 23 [pdf]), the trains will travel at high speeds for the second phase of construction to connect to Orlando.

According to (All Aboard Florida), Brightline will travel at speeds between 79 and 125 miles per hour. Between Miami and West Palm, the trains will travel up to 79 mph; between West Palm to Cocoa, up to 110 mph; and from Cocoa to Orlando, up to 125 mph...

The bill lays out a series of requirements that rail operators must meet. A major issue is if it targets one company, which would be unconstitutional. Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, said it doesn't.

“This is not about a particular high-speed passenger train,” Mayfield said. “This is about setting a framework for Florida.”

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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Published on Friday, March 10, 2017 in Palm Beach Post
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