Brightline Celebrates Completion Of Construction For Orlando Expansion

Brightline Orlando Train Station. Credit: Brightline.

Brightline, the premier provider of modern, eco-friendly intercity rail in the United States, recently marked a significant milestone with the completion of construction in Orlando. This achievement sets the stage for the highly anticipated service launch between Central and South Florida later this summer. To commemorate this achievement, a gathering of mayors from Brightline station cities and Brightline Orlando construction team members came together to discuss the profound transportation and economic impact this innovative rail service will bring to Florida.

Brightline’s remarkable expansion into Orlando commenced in June 2019, just one year after the successful launch of operations connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach in South Florida. As construction progressed towards Orlando, Brightline expanded its network by opening additional stations in downtown Boca Raton and Aventura in 2022. It is worth noting that Brightline’s venture marks a significant milestone as the first private entity to introduce a groundbreaking intercity rail system since the illustrious Henry Flagler constructed the iconic railroad over a century ago.

Brightline’s monumental construction efforts spanning Phase I and II have created over 10,000 jobs and contributed a staggering $6.4 billion in economic impact to Florida, supported by extensive economic studies. Despite the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain constraints, the dedicated construction teams persevered, collectively clocking in over seven million hours of work to complete the ambitious 170-mile corridor extension.

Brightline Orlando Train Station. Credit: Brightline.

Mayors representing Brightline’s station cities, including Miami, Aventura, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Orlando, recently convened at Brightline’s Orlando Station, located at Orlando International Airport, to commemorate this remarkable economic and engineering feat. Led by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, along with esteemed guests Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Palm Beach County Mayor Gregg Weiss, Aventura Mayor Howard Weinberg, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the event centered around an enlightening discussion on the future transformative impact of interconnecting Florida through state-of-the-art intercity passenger rail.

Along with Brightline’s construction management team and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Mayors captured a poignant and symbolic moment, marking the culmination of construction, as they united for an iconic photograph that signifies the vital rail connection between Miami and Orlando.

Credit: Brightline.

“This is an incredible moment for our entire community. We have watched the construction progress and looking forward to the day we would see trains pass us on the highway. That day has come, and we now see firsthand the benefits Brightline will bring to Central Florida. With jobs, partnerships, and significant economic impact, this is a historical time for us, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds with Brightline as part of our community.” – Jerry Demings, Mayor of Orange County.

The Next Phase

Brightline is forging ahead with essential high-speed train testing along the entire corridor connecting West Palm Beach and Orlando, with plans to reach up to 110 mph in Brevard County during July. Brightline completed the final rail and track cutover as part of the project’s recent milestones, seamlessly integrating a new second track into the existing corridor. Following the conclusion of testing, the focus will shift to crew certification and revenue service demonstration, bringing this visionary transportation project closer to the entire operation.

Credit: Brightline.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mayors from South Florida as we celebrate this connection between two of Florida’s busiest city centers, Orlando and Miami. This new Orlando train station at the Orlando International Airport with 170 miles of track will connect travelers with an efficient, eco-friendly transportation option and provide job opportunities. As a true multimodal hub, it will change the transportation landscape and I look forward to the continued growth to come as a result of Brightline’s inclusion in our community.” – Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando

Orlando Expansion

Brightline’s ambitious Orlando extension project encompasses four distinct zones, each contributing to the realization of a seamless rail connection. The project includes establishing a cutting-edge vehicle maintenance facility, transforming the Orlando station at Orlando International Airport, constructing numerous bridges and underpasses, and significant upgrades to over 150 railroad crossings.

Zone 1:

The basecamp of Brightline’s operations, known as “Basecamp,” occupies a sprawling 62-acre site located south of Orlando International Airport. Spanning an impressive 138,000 square feet, this state-of-the-art facility is equivalent to two football fields in size and is equipped to service up to 16 trains daily. Notable features include a fully-automated train wash and an 80,000-gallon biodiesel fuel farm, ensuring efficient and sustainable operations.

Brightline Orlando Station, a remarkable 37,350 square foot train station, finds its home within the confines of Orlando International Airport’s new 80,000 square foot Train Station. Seamlessly connected to the airport’s Terminal C through an automated people mover called “Terminal Link,” the station offers swift access to Terminals A and B within five minutes. Among its amenities, the station boasts the iconic Mary Mary Bar, the vibrant MRKT Place, a captivating BrightKids children’s play area, and the inviting SMART and PREMIUM lounges.

Zone 2:

This pivotal 3.5-mile section within the heart of Orlando International Airport presents one of the project’s most intricate and demanding construction challenges. The engineered double-track traverses beneath active airport taxiways and over tug roads encompass six bridges, two underpasses, and various airport enhancements. A new traffic interchange configuration and the introduction of the airport’s first roundabout have been implemented to enhance traffic flow and efficiency.

Zone 3:

Stretching across a 35-mile corridor, this section of the project follows the path of the Beachline Expressway/SR 528, linking Orlando International Airport and Cocoa. The extensive efforts undertaken in this zone involve substantial excavation work amounting to 3 million cubic yards, the placement of 5.4 million cubic yards of embankment fill, the installation of 865,000 square feet of mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls, and the implementation of 100,000 linear feet of piling. Furthermore, the zone encompasses the construction of 18 new bridges, three underpasses, drainage installations, track and signalization deployment, and the laying 60 track miles of new rail.

Zone 4:

Covering an impressive 129-mile corridor extending from Cocoa to West Palm Beach, this project section involved substantial upgrades to existing tracks. Upgrading from Class IV to Class VI, Brightline enables service speeds of up to 110 MPH. Integral to this zone was the construction of a parallel second main track alongside the existing one, the relocation of 56 miles of the current track, the creation of 100 miles of new Class VI track within the existing right of way, and the rehabilitation of 28 miles of existing sidings. Approximately 80 turnouts and crossovers were installed or relocated, fiber ducts were shifted parallel to the right of way, and 156 railroad crossings underwent extensive upgrades and improvements. The project also encompassed the replacement of 19 bridges, including two movable bridges, the Loxahatchee River Bridge, and the rehabilitation of the St. Lucie River Bridge.

Safety Components and Crossings:

Recognizing the paramount importance of safety, Brightline diligently undertook crucial safety enhancements at all 156 railroad crossings along the 129-mile corridor, spanning from Cocoa to West Palm Beach. These enhancements varied depending on the crossing, incorporating new gates, signal systems, and pedestrians.

Brightline Orlando Train Station. Credit: Brightline.

“The expansion of Brightline from South to Central Florida is a major milestone for the future of transportation in our state. Connecting Florida’s most important tourist destinations is a win-win for our economy, residents and visitors.”

– Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami

Brightline is actively collaborating with community partners, government agencies, and news media to effectively communicate and raise awareness about rail safety through various channels, including social media platforms and impactful public service announcements.

The completion of these remarkable engineering achievements showcases the magnitude of the project:

– Over two million spikes and bolts were utilized to secure the rail infrastructure.
– A staggering 2.3 million tons of granite and limestone were transported, equivalent to the load carried by 20,000 railcars.
– A remarkable 225 million pounds of 100 percent recycled American steel were utilized, ensuring durability and sustainability.
– A substantial 6 million cubic yards of rail embankment fill were meticulously placed to create a solid foundation for the tracks.
– Additionally, 450,000 concrete ties manufactured in Fort Pierce, Fla., were incorporated into the project, providing essential support to the rail system.

These monumental achievements underscore Brightline’s commitment to engineering excellence and environmental stewardship, solidifying its position as a transformative force in intercity rail transportation.

Innovative Engineering Advancements

Brightline’s commitment to cutting-edge engineering techniques and infrastructure enhancements is evident in several remarkable achievements:

Box-Jacked Tunnels:
Brightline employed an innovative box-jacking method to construct two train underpasses swiftly, marking the first time this approach has been used outside the northeastern region. The team completed the underpasses in weeks by utilizing precast concrete boxes weighing over 3,000 tons (equivalent to 15 Boeing 757 airplanes). The hydraulic jacks moved the massive boxes at a steady pace of approximately 3 feet per hour, operating around the clock and eliminating the need for lengthy road closures.

Rehabilitation of St. Lucie River Bridge, Martin County:
As part of the bridge work across the Brightline route, the century-old St. Lucie River railroad bridge underwent extensive rehabilitation in Stuart, Fla. A dedicated team worked tirelessly to replace the bridge’s mechanical, electrical, and control components within a month, ensuring improved reliability and minimizing the risk of unplanned closures. Boaters will benefit from the enhanced dependability of bridge openings and closings.

Replacement of Loxahatchee River Bridge, Jupiter, Palm Beach County:
The 1926-built Loxahatchee River railroad bridge in Jupiter, Fla., was replaced with a brand-new structure, offering increased reliability and efficiency. Over seven weeks in 2022, Brightline diligently installed the new drawbridge, replacing the electrical system, operating machinery, and a second track. Boaters now experience improved dependability of bridge operations and increased clearance for small watercraft, thanks to adding a new small craft navigation span.

New Track for the Fastest Train in Florida:
In March 2023, Brightline achieved a significant milestone by becoming the fastest train in Florida and the Southeastern United States, reaching speeds of 130 mph. This remarkable accomplishment occurred during train testing along the dedicated rail corridor between Orlando International Airport and Cocoa, Fla. The newly constructed tracks along the Beachline Expressway/SR 528 offer elevated safety and efficiency without grade crossings.

Tickets Now On Sale:
Passengers can now secure their travel plans on Brightline’s service between Orlando and South Florida (Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach) from September through early 2024. Tickets can be conveniently purchased through the website or the dedicated mobile app. The SMART fares start at $79 for adults and $39 for children, while PREMIUM fares begin at $149. Groups of four or more enjoy an additional 25 percent discount on SMART fares.

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3 Comments on "Brightline Celebrates Completion Of Construction For Orlando Expansion"

  1. GardenViewNYC | June 23, 2023 at 5:50 pm | Reply

    Increadible how quickly this transit system has been built and continues to expand. Great example of how the private sector is much more efficient than our bloated government. If only we took this approach in the northeast.

  2. This a great achievement for Florida as a whole, its great not only for Floridian citizens for business or pleasure but also to attract more investment and tourists to our great state.
    Wynwood, Miami

  3. KL Miles Southgate, MI | June 26, 2023 at 12:33 pm | Reply

    I would love to see Brightline come to Michigan, I am so over Amtrak. The old trains and just all the red tape not only would this be nice here in Michigan, I see they are working on Brightline West for California. How about Brightline MidWest?

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