All Aboard’s Brightline plans massive construction effort in Miami this weekend

Construction crews will use a fleet of roughly 100 construction trucks on Saturday to haul concrete to the site of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline train station in downtown Miami, marking the final foundation work at the site.

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The company said crews on Saturday plan to pour 5,500 cubic yards of concrete at the site, which spans six city blocks and is located within walking distance of the American Airlines Arena and a short shuttle ride from PortMiami. The work is expected to take about 18 hours to complete.

Brightline officials said the Saturday’s work will mark the largest concrete pour at the site. The pour is expected to complete the foundation at the company’s MiamiCentral station.

After the weekend work, Brightline officials said vertical construction is set begin on the station’s buildings and train platforms.

Martin County: Tender needed at St. Lucie railroad bridge

Martin County officials on Thursday called on the U.S. Coast Guard to require a bridge tender at the Florida East Coast Railway drawbridge over the St. Lucie River, pointing to the increased rail traffic that All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger train service could bring to the trestle.

In a three-page letter to the Coast Guard, Deputy County Engineer Terry Rauth said it was critical an “onsite, constant bridge tender” is needed to monitor the nearly 80-year-old span.

Image of Florida East Coast railroad bridge at mile 7.4 at Stuart on display at front of auditorium at Blake Library in Stuart Thursday evening, November 13, 2014, during an information gathering session hosted by the United Coast Guard.   (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Image of Florida East Coast railroad bridge at mile 7.4 at Stuart on display at front of auditorium at Blake Library in Stuart Thursday evening, November 13, 2014, during an information gathering session hosted by the United Coast Guard. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Rauth also called on the Coast Guard to require that the bridge be locked down for no more than 30 minutes every hour. The county pointed to its 15-month study of vessel traffic at the bridge, which was released Thursday, saying it was critical that Coast Guard ensure the waterway remain open to boat traffic “no less than 30 minutes of every hour.”

All Aboard’s Brightline service plans to run 32 trains a day — 16 round trips — on the Florida East Coast Railway between Miami and Orlando. Service is expected to start in 2017.

The letter comes as Coast Guard officials evaluate potential rules changes at the bridge. Martin officials have argued Brightline’s trains could make it more difficult for boaters to navigate by the drawbridge.

“The operating rules for the St. Lucie Bridge will be inextricably entwined with current and permitted future growth of traffic on the associated rail line,” Rauth wrote in the letter. “Projected increases in freight rail traffic, the proposed introduction of passenger rail traffic, accurate measures of current maritime activity and projections of future maritime activity are all key to ensuring the reasonable needs of navigation for the foreseeable future.”

Martin County’s analysis of boat traffic at the St. Lucie River railroad bridge, which was conducted by a private engineering firm, recorded 90,808 vessels passing under the span during the 15-month period from June 2014 through Sept. 2015.

An average of 209.7 boats per day crossed under the bridge, the study found.

The county said traffic counts at the bridge peaked between March and August, when more than 250 boats per day crossed under the span. Traffic on the weekend was also “significantly higher” than other days, the study found.

The St. Lucie River bridge is one of three, including the Loxahatchee River bridge and New River bridge in Fort Lauderdale, that All Aboard Florida has said will get upgrades to allow them to be raised and lowered more quickly.

 

All Aboard rail delivery could temporarily block area streets

Crews working to unload a delivery of rail beams for the All Aboard Florida’s Brightline project could temporarily block railroad crossings along the Florida East Coast Railway line beginning Wednesday.

A Florida East Coast train pulls new tracks for the All Aboard Florida project south of Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach, February 5, 2016. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
A Florida East Coast train pulls new tracks for the All Aboard Florida project south of Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach, February 5, 2016. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Crews will be unloading rail beams along the FEC corridor in Palm Beach County, potentially closing rail crossings on roadways in Lake Worth, Lantana, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton.

The train delivering the rail beams is expected to be in the area through Saturday.

“Crossings could be temporarily blocked due to the offloading activities,” the company said in a news release announcing the delivery. “Crews in the field will work to avoid blocking two crossings at once and minimize the time the crossings are blocked.”

This is All Aboard’s fifth delivery of rail in the South Florida area. In total, the beams span about 7.5 miles.

The material will be used to add a second track to the FEC line as part of the company’s Brightline passenger rail service linking South Florida to Orlando.

Martin County to spend another $850K to fight All Aboard Florida’s Brightline trains

Martin County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to set aside an additional $850,000 to continue their legal fight to block All Aboard Florida’s Brightline train service, which is set to begin shuttling passengers between Miami and Orlando late next year.2_rails__de__chemin_de__fer1_

County officials said the money would be used to oppose All Aboard Florida through various means, including covering the cost of ongoing legal action.

Tuesday’s decision brings Martin County’s total allocation in its fight against All Aboard Florida to $2.2 million.

Last year, county commissioners agreed to set aside $1.4 million to fund opposition efforts, including a federal lawsuit challenging federal approval authorizing All Aboard to issue up to $1.75 billion in private activity bonds. County officials said Tuesday that roughly $217,000 of the $1.4 million has not been spent, although some of the money has been allocated for various efforts.

“This is not the time to waiver or demonstrate any sign of weakness,” Commissioner John Haddox said. “Now is the time, and today is the day, that we take a strong stance and a firm resolve to continue to oppose All Aboard Florida.”

 

Brightline trains to feature “gap fillers” to ease boarding process

Brightline announced this week that its new trains will feature custom “gap fillers” to bridge the space between the passenger car and the platform, making it easier for riders board and disembark.

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The company said it is the first in the U.S. to utilize the retractable mechanisms, which will be part of train car door system.

According to Brightline: Before the passenger car’s doors open, “the custom gap filler will extend up to 12 inches from the train and pivot to meet the station platform, creating a flush surface for passengers to cross and making it easy for those in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or luggage to board.”

Brightline’s trains are being constructed by Siemens at their manufacturing facility in Sacramento, California.

“In order to make boarding our trains fast and easy for our all of our guests, we are using the latest technology available and have customized it to create a smart solution unique to our trains and stations,” said Gene Skoropowski, Brightline’s senior vice president of railroad operations. “In building our trains, we are innovating to make train travel easier and more comfortable for all of our guests. We are thrilled to be the first passenger train in the U.S. using this technology from Bode.”

Provision exempting All Aboard from regulation on liquor sales dropped from bill

A provision that would have exempted All Aboard Florida from state rules regulating the hours of sale of beer, wine and liquor at its Brightline train stations was removed Thursday from a sweeping bill that would overhaul the state’s alcoholic beverage laws. 2_rails__de__chemin_de__fer1_

Before sending the bill (SB 698) to the senate floor, The Senate’s Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday removed a provision that would have exempted railroad transit stations from state rules that prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages between midnight and 7 a.m.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who proposed the legislation, told the committee that the provision would have given operators of railroad transit stations an unfair advantage.

“As the bill has gone through the process it has come to our attention…that the bill without this amendment would give a competitive advantage to those licenses or those activities allowed at the railroad transit stations which certainly is not the intent,” Bradley told the committee Thursday. “We would intend those railroad transit stations to comply with all local ordinances and other restrictions that anyone else would be required to do.”

The bill creates a special alcoholic beverage license for railroad transit systems. The special category would not be subject to quota restrictions that limit the number of alcoholic beverage licenses in each county.

Among its other changes, the bill would streamline how theme parks and their resorts account for the large quantity of beer sold at their properties. Instead of tallying new deposits and credits every time a distributor drops off a load of kegs, theme parks would be allowed to reconcile payments on an annual basis.

The bill also would change the way cruise lines pay beverage and tobacco taxes. Under the proposal, taxes would be calculated based on a ship’s capacity rather than the volume of alcohol or tobacco sold at port.

The legislation would also allow the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to issue temporary alcoholic beverage permits to cities, towns and counties.

All Aboard rail delivery to block intersections in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth

Crews working to unload a delivery of rail beams for the All Aboard Florida project could block an intersection in downtown West Palm Beach for more than an hour today, the company said. 2_rails__de__chemin_de__fer1_

The intersection of 3rd Street and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks will be temporarily closed as workers unload the rail beams from a stopped train.

Crews will be unloading rail in the area south of Okeechobee Boulevard and north of Lake Avenue in Lake Worth through Monday, All Aboard said. Roads will periodically be closed as the train moves through the area.

The company said safety personnel are on site to help direct vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

This is All Aboard’s fourth delivery of rail beams in the South Florida area. In total, the beams span about 7.5 miles, All Aboard officials said.

The material will be used to add a second track to the FEC line as part of the company’s cross-state rail system.

 

Construction on Brightline’s trains advances

The shell of the first passenger train coach car that will carry passengers on All Aboard Florida’s Brightline rail service has been completed at Siemens’ manufacturing facility in Sacramento, Calif., the company announced Tuesday.

Shell of the first Brightline train. Photo provided by Brigtline
Shell of the first Brightline train.
Photo provided by Brightline

More than 70 employees at the facility have worked on the 85-foot-long coach car, using more than 50,000 welds to fuse it together, according to a news release issued by Brightline. The shell will now go through a finishing process, preparing it for final assembly, the company said.

» PHOTOS: See more images of Brightline’s first passenger car

“With the completion of the first coach car shell, we are bringing our vision for a truly unique train service that will transform travel in Florida one step closer to fruition,” said Mike Reininger, Brightline’s president. “The Siemens team has been working diligently and we are thrilled to mark this milestone as the finishing of this car progresses and the manufacture of additional cars continues.”

Initially, the company will have five four-car trains, each capable of carrying 240 passengers. By June 2018, Brightline will have 10 trains with seven cars each. Those trains will be able to carry 356 passengers.

Last week, All Aboard Florida began vertical construction on a rail repair facility in West Palm Beach that will service its Brightline trains when they begin shuttling passengers between South Florida and Orlando next year.

The facility, just north of downtown West Palm Beach, will be used to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline’s trains, company officials have said. About 50 people will work at the 12-acre site at 601 15th St., which is also expected to serve as an office for the company’s conductors, engineers, and onboard service staff.

 

 

5 things to know about All Aboard Florida and Brightline

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As the new year begins, we’re betting All Aboard Florida’s plans for an intercity rail system in Florida will continue to be one of our top business stories.

Here are five things you need to know about the massive project.

1. It’s truly massive. The downtown Miami station is slated to have a footprint that spans six city blocks. The West Palm Beach station will be 60,000 square feet, and it’s paired with a plan for a rail-side apartment complex.

Read more about the planned stations.

2. You could ride a Brightline train by the end of 2017. The company plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Service between Miami and West Palm Beach is set to begin in 2017, with the West Palm-to-Orlando route set to open by the end of 2017.

3. Station construction already is happening. This month, engineers tested lighting for the signature V’s that mark the facade of its stations. Above-ground work is underway in Miami, and Florida East Coast Railway, All Aboard’s sister company, has been adding a second line of tracks along its route to accommodate both freight and passenger trains.

4. All Aboard Florida didn’t change its name to Brightline. Rather, Brightline is the official brand name of the rail line.

5. The project has its detractors. Citing safety and economic concerns, groups including Florida Not All Aboard and Citizens Against Rail Expansion have launched campaigns against All Aboard Florida. Martin and Indian River counties have pledged money to fight the rail line. Opponents also have fought to block the company from issuing bonds to pay for the project.

Get more details on All Aboard Florida and Brightline.

Agreement reached to bring Tri-Rail to All Aboard Florida’s station in Miami

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority on Friday unanimously approved an agreement that would bring TriRail to All Aboard Florida‘s station in downtown Miami — a move that would ultimately allow the commuter rail service to run between Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.2_rails__de__chemin_de__fer1_

Of the 50 daily TriRail trains, 26 are expected to travel to All Aboard’s Miami station.

Under the agreement, a handful of organizations and government agencies based in Miami-Dade County would set aside $43.61 million to pay for a rail line connecting the CSX tracks, which Tri-Rail currently runs on, to the FEC corridor.  The money would also be used to link Tri-Rail to All Aboard’s MiamiCentral station.

Before the plan can move forward, the state’s Department of Transportation must also pledge an additional $17.2 million to fund the connection.