Tri-Rail to start service between Palm Beach County and Brightline’s Miami station late this year

Palm Beach County residents will be able to ride TriRail trains to All Aboard Florida’s Brightline station in downtown Miami by the end of the year.

A Tri-Rail spokeswoman said Monday the agency plans to launch service between Palm Beach County and the new rail station, known as MiamiCentral, late this year.

The Villegas family, from California, waits for the Tri-Rail train at the West Palm Beach station, Friday, June 12, 2015. They were traveling to Miami. (Joe Forzano/The Palm Beach Post)

RELATED: Brightline Miami station rises, more relevant to PBC residents

Tri-Rail plans to run 26 of its 50 daily trains to MiamiCentral. The remaining 24 trains will continue to run between Palm Beach County and the Miami International Airport.

RELATED: A look inside Brightline’s massive MiamiCentral project 

The downtown stop will give Palm Beach County residents easier access to the American Airlines Arena, where The Miami Heat play, Port Miami, and other nearby businesses and shopping districts, officials have said.

The station in downtown Miami could mark the beginning of the expansion of the current Tri-Rail system along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, serving as the southernmost stop for Tri-Rail’s Coastal Link and

The Coastal Link project is planned to run through coastal downtowns from Miami to Jupiter.

 

Brightline begins hiring for passenger train service

Brightline is accepting applications for roughly 200 positions it plans to fill as part of its plan to launch passenger train service between West Palm Beach and Miami along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

Brightline’s second train set, dubbed BrightPink because of its color scheme, arrived in West Palm Beach on Monday evening. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The company plans to hire 90 employees in the West Palm Beach area, Dave Howard, the company’s chief executive officer said Friday. Jobs include security officers, train attendants and guest service agents.

Those interested in applying should visit the company’s website, gobrightline.com/careers, to view a current list of openings, he added.

Howard, an executive from the sports and entertainment industry who joined Brightline’s team in March, said the company is focused on customer service and creating a “culture of care” for its passengers.

“Hospitality has not met train travel,” Howard said. “It will here.”

RELATED: Brightline to start service in July between WPB and Ft. Lauderdale

Brightline has said it will start “pre-season” service between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale in late July. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin in August.

A grand opening of the rail project is planned for mid-September, the company has said.

Brightline plans to eventually extend the service to Orlando.

Work on Brightline stations in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale is nearly complete. Construction crews are expected to turn over the properties to Brightline officials within the next week or two, Howard said.

Testing on the company’s first two trains is underway. Two more trains are expected to arrive in West Palm Beach in the coming weeks.

RELATED: Two more Brightline trains expected to arrive in WPB together 

Meanwhile, Brightline officials said work continues on a plan to implement a quiet zone” to silence train horns along the FEC tracks.

Brightline officials have said the first phase of the quiet zone will be installed along a 9-mile stretch of track that runs between Park Place in West Palm Beach and Central Boulevard in Lantana.  The company has been testing its first train along that section of rail.

Brightline officials said Friday the quiet zone is expected to be in place at the time the company begins service this summer.

Brightline this month launched a safety campaign designed to warn students and those living near the FEC corridor about the dangers of walking along train tracks.

The company has asked cities along the route to help promote the campaign, part of a national program called Operation Lifesaver, which is designed to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and prevent trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

On Friday, Brightline was named  “2017 Business of the Year” by the Chamber of Commerce of The Palm Beaches. The company received the award at the 2017 Business Awards Breakfast held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

 

Two more Brightline trains expected to arrive in WPB together

Two more Brightline trains  — named BrightGreen and BrightOrange because of the colors on their passenger cars — are expected arrive in South Florida in the coming weeks, the company announced on its website. 

Brightline’s second train set, dubbed BrightPink because of its color scheme, arrived in West Palm Beach on Monday evening. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The trains will be shipped together from the California manufacturing hub where they are under construction, Brightline officials said.

RELATED: First look inside new Brightline train 

Work on the green train is complete. Crews are in the process of putting the finishing touches on the orange train, the company said.

Brightline unveiled its first train, named BrightBlue, at a special event in January. The company has been periodically testing that train on the rail line running south from its West Palm Beach rail repair facility.

RELATED: Brightline shuffles managers as it readies to launch service in summer

A second train — BrightPink — arrived in West Palm Beach last month.

The trains are being built at Siemens’ manufacturing hub in Sacramento, Calif. A total of 5 trains are expected to arrive in South Florida before the company launches the first leg of its passenger service this summer.

The first Brightline train has arrived, housed in the company’s rail repair facility off of Division Avenue in West Palm Beach on December 14, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The first leg will carry passengers between West Palm Beach and Miami. Eventually, Brightline plans to expand service north to Orlando.

Brightline has said it will start “pre-season” service between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale in late July. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin in August.

A grand opening of the rail project is planned for mid-September, the company said.

Judge signs off on environmental permit for Brightline rail project

An administrative law judge has signed off on an environmental permit that All Aboard Florida’s Brightline needs to build its passenger railroad between Miami and Orlando.

Brightline’s first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

In a 23-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter upheld the St. Johns River Water Management District’s August decision to approve a permit for the project.

RELATED: House panel pulls high-speed rail bill, Brightline takes victory lap

The Indian River Farms Water Control District had argued new bridges planned as part of the rail project could cause flooding. In its challenge, the district argued the bridges will be too low to allow clearance during a 100-year storm event, which would cause water flow to be obstructed in the area.

“This ruling is further demonstration that Brightline is adhering to all regulations for the construction of its system,” said Myles Tobin, General Counsel for Brightline. “As Treasure Coast taxpayers continue to spend millions on legal challenges fighting Brightline, we continue to invest more than $1.3 billion to connect the state’s most populated centers, creating jobs and spurring economic opportunities. We are planning for Phase 2 while preparing to launch the South Florida service in several months.”

Brightline plans to run as many as 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The company’s trains are expected to reach speeds of up to 79 mph between Miami and West Palm Beach; 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach; and 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando.

RELATED: Brightline tests to resume on tracks with two trains in April

Freight trains on the FEC line currently operate at speeds of between 35 and 40 mph, although the trains are capable of moving up to 60 mph, officials have said.

Brightline’s first two trains – named BrightBlue and BrightPink for the color of the passenger cars — arrived in West Palm Beach this year.

Three more trains are expected to arrive in South Florida by May, Brightline officials said. The third train to arrive will be called BrightGreen.

Brightline announced this month that it plans to launch passenger service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in late July. Service between Fort Lauderdale and Miami is scheduled to start in late August, the company said.

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.

Grupo México to buy Florida East Coast Railway

Grupo México, a mining and transportation company based in Mexico City, announced Tuesday that it plans to buy Florida East Coast Railway. 

The price tag is $2.1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Grupo México controls more than 6,200 miles of rail track in Mexico, handling just over 1.4 million loads per year.

RELATED: House panel pulls high-speed rail bill, Brightline takes victory lap

The company said the acquisition of FEC will allow it to establish itself as “an important railroad owner in the United States, adding a vital Florida rail line to the company’s existing operations in Texas.”

“The acquisition of FEC is an important strategic addition to our North American transportation service offering,” said Alfredo Casar, President and Chief Executive Officer of GMXT. “Our acquisition of the FEC will significantly enhance the scope, scale and diversification of our service.

Officials with All Aboard Florida’s Brightline said the sale would not impact the passenger rail project, which plans to start offering service in South Florida this summer.

“The sale of the Florida East Coast Railway does not impact Brightline,” the company said. “Brightline is a separate company that has dual ownership of the corridor and the right to operate passenger service. We have all shared operations-related agreements in place with the Florida East Coast Railway for us to fully build out and implement our passenger rail system.”

House subcommittee postpones vote on high-speed rail bill

UPDATE, 11:05 a.m.: A citizen’s group opposing All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service has released a statement following today’s meeting.

“We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course,” said Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion, also known as CARE FL. “All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies. AAF continues to put the communities of South Florida on the hook for millions in upgrades to enhance safety measures and make a grab for taxpayer subsidies. We will continue to advocate for legislation that puts public safety first and we know that our elected leaders want the same. This is nothing more than an ill-conceived rail project by a private company that wants to shift costs to the taxpayers.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A House subcommittee postponed its vote this morning on a bill that would regulate high-speed passenger trains like All Aboard Florida’s Brightline.

Brightline’s second train set, dubbed BrightPink because of its color scheme, arrived in West Palm Beach on this month. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The bill (HB 269) was to be taken up by the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, but members announced this morning that they were postponing the issue.

RELATED: Concern over Brightline prompts lawmakers to consider rail regulations
RELATED: Opinion: All Aboard Florida trying to keep Brightline’s future from dimming

A companion bill (SB 386) filed in the Senate cleared its first hurdle earlier this month, winning support from the Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

It would require high-speed rail companies such as All Aboard Florida to install safety features and pay for fencing along sections of its tracks where pedestrians could be at risk.

The bill also would establish minimum safety standards for high-speed rail, including the installation of Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring safety technology. The features are designed to help stop a train if the engineer falls ill or a crossing gate malfunctions.

RELATED: See inside All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train

In a statement released this morning, Brightline officials said the bill is deigned to target its passenger train service, which is set to begin operating between West Palm Beach and Miami this summer.

““The fact that the bill was pulled from the committee agenda today means the overwhelming input from groups such as the Florida Chamber and Florida TaxWatch, elected officials from key cities and newspaper editorial boards is making an impact,” said Rusty Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs for Brightline.  “We have been saying this bill is not about safety but an attack against private property rights and is targeting our company.  Legislators are comprehending these facts, and we are appreciative.”

2nd Brightline train on its way to West Palm Beach

The second train in Brightline’s growing fleet is on its way to West Palm Beach.

Photos posted on Facebook by rail enthusiasts late Tuesday show the train traveling through parts of California.

Brightline unveiled its first train, named Bright Blue because of the color of the markings on its passenger cars, at a special event in January.

The second train is dubbed Bright Pink.

The trains are being built at Siemens’ manufacturing hub in Sacramento, California. In all, five trains are expected to arrive in South Florida before the company launches the first leg of its passenger service this summer.

The first leg will carry passengers between West Palm Beach and Miami. Eventually, Brightline plans to expand service north to Orlando.

 

 

Concern over Brightline prompts lawmakers to consider rail regulations

A House panel on Wednesday got its first glimpse at a proposal to regulate All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger train service and other high-speed rail ventures.

Brightline's first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
Brightline’s first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

The Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittee spent about an hour listening to a group of rail experts weigh in on the proposal, which would create statewide rules requiring rail operators to install and pay for safety upgrades.

RELATED: See inside All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train

A bill, dubbed the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, which was filed last month by Treasure Coast lawmakers, would establish minimum safety standards for high-speed rail, including the installation Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring safety technology. The features are designed to help stop a train if the engineer falls ill or a crossing gate malfunctions.

Before launching high-speed service, train companies would also be required to make upgrades at intersections where the road crosses the train tracks.

The legislation would make high-speed rail companies responsible for the cost of all safety upgrades at railroad crossings.

Brightline plans to run as many as 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The company’s trains are expected to reach speeds of up to 79 miles per hour between Miami and West Palm Beach; 110 miles per hour between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach; and 125 miles per hour between Cocoa and Orlando.

Service between Miami and West Palm Beach is expected to start this summer.

Freight trains on the FEC line currently operate at speeds of between 35 and 40 miles per hour, although they trains are capable of moving up to 60 miles per hour, Robert Ledoux, Florida East Coast Railway’s Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary told state lawmakers on Wednesday.

Ledoux was one of six panelists who addressed the subcommittee.

Bob O’Malley, Florida Government Relations & Community Affairs for CSX Transportation, also expressed concerns with the bill, saying it could have financial impacts on train operations across the state.

Treasure Coast leaders on the panel warned state lawmakers that the fast-moving trains could create a safety problem through their communities, adding that local governments area required to cover the cost of maintaining rail improvements in areas where the tracks cross a road.

“Because you are going to be running trains at 110 miles per hour, this is a risk that doesn’t exist now, and this is something that everyone needs to be concerned about,” said George Gavalla, a rail safety consultant for Martin and Indian River counties.

All Aboard Florida General Counsel Myles Tobin said, if approved, the proposed bill would delay the project and add tens of millions of dollars to its price tag.

The fencing requirements alone would cost as much as $65 million, Tobin told the subcommittee. The company would have to spend $6 million a year maintaining the fencing, he added.

Tobin also argued state lawmakers don’t have the legal authority to impose regulations based on the speed of a train. Decisions about safety requirements should be left to state and federal transportation officials, he added.

Martin County Fire Rescue Division Chief Daniel Wouters said crews are delayed as many as 140 times a year at rail crossings. Increasing the number of trains at those crossings will only add to the delays, he told lawmakers.

Tobin said Brightline officials are focused on safety, adding that the company is working with emergency responders across South Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brightline train starts testing in Palm Beach County

All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train began testing this afternoon along a 9-mile stretch of track just south of downtown West Palm Beach.

The company’s “BrightBlue” train, a moniker based on the blue strips down the side of its cars, started rolling through West Palm Beach around 3 p.m. — creeping slowing along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks as it paused at railroad intersections.

Brightline's first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
Brightline’s first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

RELATED: All Aboard Florida’s Brightline: Everything you need to know

The testing is expected to continue for several weeks. The company has said the testing is expected to start in the morning and end in the early evening.

The train is expected to stop periodically between intersections where the road crosses the track, but Brightline officials said they don’t expect the testing to cause any traffic delays.

RELATED: Concerns over Brightline spark push for high-speed rail regulations

The effort will include a series of tests required by the Federal Railroad Administration before passengers can ride in the train’s four cars.

Brightline has stockpiled 45,000 pounds of sand at its rail repair facility. The company plans to use the sand, which is divided in 40-pound sandbags, to simulate the weight of passengers in the train’s seat.

 

Concerns over Brightline spark push for high-speed rail regulations

A group of Treasure Coast lawmakers concerned over the safety of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service filed bills on Tuesday aimed at regulating the company’s express-passenger trains and other high-speed rail ventures.

The first Brightline train has arrived, housed in the company's rail repair facility off of Division Avenue in West Palm Beach on December 14, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
The first Brightline train has arrived, housed in the company’s rail repair facility off of Division Avenue in West Palm Beach on December 14, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

State Senator Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, along with Reps. MaryLynn Magar,R-Hobe Sound, Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, want to create statewide rules requiring rail operators to install and pay for safety upgrades.

Brightline President Mike Reininger said last week the company plans to deliver the “most technologically advanced train in America on what will be perhaps the safest rail operation in America.”

RELATED: See inside All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train

Brightline plans to run as many as 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando. Between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach,  the company’s trains are expected to reach speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

“I find it quite astounding that Florida does not have any measures in place to address high-speed rail when there is a statewide project underway that will crisscross through my community, many others between Miami and Orlando, and potentially up Florida’s entire east coast,” Mayfield said in a statement released by her office. “I can tell you that to date I have not heard one thing from AAF about what they are going to do to ensure safety features are in place to protect the public around these fast-moving trains. This legislation is really designed to protect all Floridians from accidents and injuries at these dangerous railroad crossings across the state.”

The bill, dubbed the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, would establish minimum safety standards for high-speed rail, including the installation Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring safety technology.

RELATED: All Aboard’s Brightline train to begin tests on tracks this week 

Before launching high-speed service, train companies would also be required to make upgrades at intersections where the road crosses the train tracks.

The legislation would make high-speed rail companies responsible for the cost of all safety upgrades at railroad crossings.

Treasure Coast leaders continue to challenge the second phase of Brightline’s route between West Palm Beach and Orlando. Martin and Indian River counties have filed a federal lawsuit to block bonds that the company had planned to use to pay for the construction.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in November withdrew its 2014 approval granting Brightline permission to sell the bonds, a move federal officials now argue makes the lawsuit filed by the two counties moot.

Instead, the federal transportation officials granted All Aboard provisional permission to move forward with a smaller, $600 million bond sale.

When asked about the opposition last week, Brightline President Mike Reininger said “there is no such thing as a major infrastructure project in the history of the United States that doesn’t have some manner of people with a divergent point of view.”

“We have been very attentive to the things that people have said that are of concern,” Reininger said at a media event held last week to unveil the company’s first passenger train. “Things like the noise of the train, things like the safety of the grade crossings. And we have been very responsible in everything that we have done to (address) those issues and know that what we are delivering is the most technologically advanced train in America on what will be perhaps the safest rail operation in America as a result of the investments and the tangible things that we have done. We are very proud of that. We believe that really does address the things that people say they are concerned with.”