Feds Approve Brightline Expansion To Orlando

Company to launch service to Miami and start construction on Phase 2 expansion to Orlando in early 2018.

On Friday, December 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Record of Decision (ROD) for the privately funded Brightline intercity passenger rail project between Miami and Orlando. The ROD represents the final step in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was issued in 2015 and is the last federal environmental approval needed to construct the system between West Palm Beach and Orlando. This decision marks the achievement of another significant milestones for the company as it gears up to launch Phase 1 of its service and start construction north of West Palm Beach.

Image: Go Brightline

“This is the most critical and final step in the extension of Brightline’s service to Orlando, and we are excited to move forward with Phase 2,” said Dave Howard, Brightline’s CEO. “This was a great year for us as we completed construction on two of our major stations and rail infrastructure, successfully presold tickets and corporate packages to individuals and businesses throughout the region and priced $600 million in Private Activity Bonds to fund Phase 1. We look forward to launching service to Miami and starting construction north to Orlando in the first quarter of 2018.”

For the past four years, the Federal Railroad Administration, the lead agency, has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, numerous local agencies, water management districts, cities and counties on the development and issuance of the FEIS. The process included extensive public outreach, including dozens of public meetings and the submission and consideration of thousands of public comments.

Construction continues on the intermodal terminal serving Orlando International Airport. Image: Orlando International Airport

Now the project is geared to move full speed ahead. Over the next few months, Brightline will finalize the design for the rail infrastructure and the 70-acre Vehicle Maintenance Facility that will be located on Orlando International Airport property. Construction of the system is anticipated to create thousands of jobs and provide a much-needed link between Florida’s two most visited and populated regions.

Brightline’s station in Orlando will be located at the Orlando International Airport’s new Intermodal Terminal Facility (ITF), the hub of the airport’s future South Terminal complex. The ITF is connected to the North Terminal by a recently completed Automated People Mover and includes a 5,000-space parking garage. In addition, SunRail, Central Florida’s commuter rail system, has a planned connection to the ITF. The completion of the South Terminal will add 16 new gates for international and domestic flights.

While traffic snarls in South Florida, Brightline’s new higher-speed passenger rail service looks to capture ridership from both commuters and tourists. Image: Go Brightline

Furthermore, Brightline will announce the launch date for the start of introductory service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach soon. The company expects to become fully operational and extend service into downtown Miami in early 2018.

Florida’s fixed transit network

With operations beginning soon, billions of dollars in transit oriented development continue to be spurred by the high speed rail project. Here’s a look at where each Brightline station and associated TOD currently stands, as well as what Tampa and Jacksonville are doing in anticipation of possibly being served by a statewide intercity rail system.

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