By 2028, Brightline hopes to launch higher-speed passenger train service along an $8 billion, 320-mile rail network stretching from Miami to Orlando to Tampa Bay, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
“We are challenging the way that we move between city to city. We are challenging the automobile,” said Mike Cegelis, Brightline executive vice president of infrastructure.
“We hope to take people out of cars and put them on trains between cities in this country,” he said.
[TRENDING: Top 5 hottest ZIP codes future Orlando homeowners are looking at | Here’s why you didn’t see many lovebugs this year | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]
Cegelis outlined a host of Florida-wide Brightline updates Thursday during a Melbourne Regional Chamber breakfast speech at Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place.
Passenger service is expected to begin in early 2023 on the privately held company’s $2.7 billion extension linking South Florida with Orlando International Airport — which leads through Brevard County.
Cegelis said crews have worked 4.3 million manhours on this 169-mile project thus far, and more than 1,300 workers are on the job. Work is 63% complete.
In Brevard County, Brightline is installing more than 70 miles of track along two corridors. Cegelis said the north-south Florida East Coast Railway line from Cocoa to the St. Sebastian River is under “total reconstruction” as a double-tracked freight-passenger corridor, while a new single set of tracks is being laid down along the east-west stretch from Cocoa to the St. Johns River.
Brevard will receive about 50 miles of double-track rail and two structural underpasses, along with upgrades to 50 crossings and 15 bridges.
Key Brevard rail bridge construction updates, from north to south:
Horse Creek in Melbourne: Complete by June.
Eau Gallie River in Melbourne: Complete by November 2022.
Crane Creek in Melbourne: Complete by December 2022.
Turkey Creek in Palm Bay: Complete by October 2022.
Goat Creek in Grant-Valkaria: Complete by November 2022.
St. Sebastian River in Micco: Complete by December 2022.
Cegelis said the first 1,600-foot-long strips of steel rails for the track linking Cocoa with Orlando arrived last weekend from a supplier in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Brightline trains will travel at 79 to 110 mph in Brevard, Cegelis said. One northbound train and one southbound train will pass per hour, totaling 32 trains per day. For motorists, Cegelis said it should take roughly 25 seconds for the rail crossing gate to go down and the train to whiz by.
No stations are planned in Brevard in the near future.
Trains will take a little more than three hours to travel between Orlando and Miami, and tickets will cost about $100 one-way.
Cegelis said Brightline will be faster than “the best-circumstance driving trip,” and the company aims to keep fare costs lower than 50 cents per mile.
Brightline’s “flagship” stations in downtown Miami and the Orlando airport’s Terminal C will anchor the route, with in-line stations in Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
A future 84-mile rail extension between Orlando and Tampa following Interstate 4 — with a station in Disney Springs — is under environmental review. Company officials project this service could start in 2028 and push Brightline’s total Florida investment to $8 billion.
Brightline officials also hope to break ground by year’s end on a western rail project connecting Las Vegas with Southern California.
Cegelis displayed a PowerPoint map highlighting other city groups labeled “too long to drive and too short to fly,” including Portland-Seattle-Vancouver; Chicago-St. Louis; Boston-New York-Washington, D.C.; Atlanta-Charlotte; and Dallas-Houston-San Antonio-Austin.
“We see many other opportunities to expand this around the country. Florida is the start of this business, but we expect it to roll out to connecting other cities in this country,” Cegelis said.
Brightline launched service in 2018 along a 67-mile route linking Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Service remains suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a relaunch scheduled about Nov. 8.
Cegelis said discussions are underway with Miami-Dade and Broward County officials on introducing commuter rail service on Brightline’s tracks.
He said the New Haven Avenue railroad-crossing closure, which triggered traffic jams from Sept. 7 to Oct. 1, was “a significant disruption” to the economy of downtown Melbourne. A water main was damaged during construction, postponing completion by five days.
“We understand that this work disrupts local business patterns. We’re very sensitive to it. We have to proceed with the work. We hope that that’s understood,” Cegelis said.
Crews will close the Hibiscus Boulevard crossing in Melbourne next month, Cegelis said.
He said public meetings on the Orlando-to-Tampa rail project will occur in both cities later this year or early next year.