Brightline ramps up Orlando push

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Brightline's Orlando Intermodal Terminal is shown under construction in late June 2017.
Brian Thorniley
ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida East Coast Industries’ Brightline passenger rail subsidiary will soon be moving personnel into a still-under construction Orlando International Airport terminal to begin a build-out of the planned station there in January, the Orlando Business Journal reports.

“The Brightline development team responsible for Phase 2 construction will locate its offices in the new Intermodal Terminal Facility,” a Brightline spokeswoman tells Trains News Wire. “We continue securing the necessary permits for the Phase 2 extension to Orlando.”

When completed, the publicly funded $682-million ground transportation nexus on the airport’s people mover system will also serve public transit, taxis, ride share services, shuttle buses to area attractions, and a proposed SunRail commuter rail extension from downtown Orlando. Although Brightline is building the intercity rail terminal, it will also pay rent to the complex, just as airlines do.

The company’s primary public focus has been preparing rails, signaling, and its Siemens-built trainsets for Phase 1 revenue operation south of West Palm Beach to Miami by the end of 2017.

Yet it has also been quietly working to transform Florida East Coast Railway’s mostly single-track line north of West Palm Beach to Cocoa, Fla., into a 110-mph double-track railroad, as well as hammering out engineering details and securing permits necessary to build a sealed, 125-mph corridor adjacent to Florida state Route 528, the Beachline Expressway, west of Cocoa to the Orlando Airport.

As part of the process for building a new railroad, the company slightly modified permitting filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the location of bridges across Interstate 95 west of Cocoa, according to the Palm Beach Post.

In late September, an administrative law judge dismissed legal challenges, filed at taxpayer expense by Martin and St. Lucie county governments, to proposed environmental mitigation during construction on the West Palm Beach-Cocoa portion of the route that had been previously approved by the South Florida Water Management District.

Debunking every objection the counties’ lawyers raised as “unpersuasive” or “without merit,” Judge Bram Canter ruled that the Brightline-Florida East Coast Railway plans for modifications to culverts, bridges, stormwater management, and 23 highway grade crossings necessary to expand the railroad’s footprint would not cause, “unacceptable cumulative impacts to wetlands and other surface waters.”
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