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All Aboard Florida's Brightline

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger service plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The project’s first phase will launch this summer, shuttling passengers between West Palm Beach and Miami in less than an hour. The trains will stop in Fort Lauderdale.

Construction is roughly 75 percent complete on Brightline’s three South Florida stations and the tracks that span between them. Brightline plans to run its trains on tracks belonging to its sister company, Florida East Coast Railway.

Brightline has faced opposition from residents in the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County who have argued the $2.9 billion rail project threatens the public safety and quality of life in their communities.

Track work for the second phase of the project, which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun.

Treasure Coast leaders are challenging that stretch of the project, and 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 Martin and Indian River counties moot.

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

So, come this summer, what can Floridians and other potential riders expect from All Aboard’s service? Here is a “virtual” tour of the program. Check back for updates on development, announcements and the continued opposition to the most significant Florida rail project since Henry Flagler’s railroad in the early 20th Century.

The Trains

(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline rail service unveiled the first train in its growing fleet on Jan. 11. The 489-foot-long train is one of five that will run as part of the project’s first phase between West Palm Beach and Miami. The first trains will have four rail cars and two locomotives and can seat 240 passengers.

In mid-January, Brightline will start testing the first train along a 9-mile stretch of track in West Palm Beach.

Features include:

• Plugs and USB jacks at every seat

(Damon Higgins\/The Palm Beach Post)

(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

• Free onboard WiFi and “Super wide” aisles that span 32-inches, wider than any other train. The extra room will allow passengers in wheelchairs and those with strollers to reach their seat with ease, the company said.

• Large “touchless” bathrooms that allows passengers to flush with a wave of their hand. The sinks include a Dyson faucet that both dispenses water and dries hands from the same fixture, helping to keep water from dripping on the floor.

(Damon Higgins\/The Palm Beach Post)

(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

• Train seats, which measure 21 inches and 19 inches wide depending on a passenger’s class of ticket, recline in place. The bottom cushion slides down and out, as opposed to back of the chair — a feature that allows passengers to recline without invading the space of the person behind them.

• Train cars feature a variety of seating options, including groups of four chairs centered around a table with built in charging stations for families and business travelers.

(Damon Higgins\/The Palm Beach Post)

(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

• Semi-permanent couplings connecting the train cars to each other and an air suspension system on the passenger coaches will help ensure a smooth ride, officials said.

• The company is also one of the only in the industry to offer “level boarding.” Each train feature custom “gap fillers” to bridge the space between the passenger car and the platform, making it easier for riders board and disembark. The mechanism will be especially helpful to people pushing strollers, pulling luggage or riding on wheelchairs, Brightline said.

Tickets

(Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Brightline is expected to begin selling tickets in the coming months. The company has not released its ticket prices, but officials said there will be a number of options including monthly and annual passes.

A ridership study suggested ticket prices could fall in these ranges:

Snapshot of Projected All Aboard Fares
• $66 to $99: West Palm Beach to Orlando
• $28 to $34: West Palm Beach to Miami
• $18 to $23: West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale

West Palm Beach

All Aboard Florida's $29 million station in downtown West Palm Beach will include a rail-side apartment complex.

The 60,000-square-foot station and platform are under construction just north of CityPlace — between Datura and Evernia streets west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

• The apartment building will rise 24 floors and will include 275 rentals in a moderate price range.

• The ground floors would be ringed with "destination retail" such as coffee shops and restaurants.

• As part of the project, rail crossings were closed at Datura and Evernia streets. A new perimeter road will link the station to Clematis Street.

• The apartment building’s 800-car garage would be book-ended by apartments for several stories, and veiled on two sides by architectural meshing.

• The garage rooftop would serve as an "amenity deck," with a swimming pool, yoga lawn, fitness center, clubhouse and "outdoor living room area" overlooking the city.

• The plan includes separate entries parking areas for residents and train passengers.

• The apartments would range from 600-square-foot studios to 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom units.

• The station's 860-foot train platform is under construction between Fern and Clematis streets just west of Quadrille Boulevard.

• As part of the project, Brightline will pay for a key access road linking the train station just north of CityPlace to Clematis Street.

• Under a deal reached with West Palm Beach officials, All Aboard’s Brightline will pay $3.8 million to buy two parcels needed for the road,including prime real estate with frontage on Clematis Street. The money will pay for the road's construction and the installation of sidewalks, lighting and landscaping along the one-block span.

• Once construction is complete, All Aboard will give the property and the road to the city. Land not needed for the road's construction will be used by the city in its redevelopment plans along Clematis Street.

• In exchange for the land, the city will give Brightline up to $3.8 million in development incentives and tax credits.

Fort Lauderdale

Brightline is working with Broward County officials in hopes of transforming the area around its Broward County station into a transportation hub mixed with offices, shops, eateries and apartments.

The 60,000-square-foot station is under construction just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Brightline plans to develop a vacant site next to the station, but hasn’t decided whether the project will be a residential building or a mix of retail and office space.

• The proposal would transform roughly 10 acres around the train tracks into a pedestrian-friendly district full of commuters, new residents and tourists.

• The district is set to include a mix of residential, office and retail space, scattered over roughly a half-dozen individual sites.

• Plans for each of those sites have not been finalized.

• The station will include a multi-story lobby and an elevated passenger lounge area for travelers.

• It will connect to Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Trolley and future Wave Streetcar system, Broward County’s public bus system, and a planned Tri-Rail station.

• The station is just blocks from Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard, which is lined with shops and eateries, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Discovery and Science.

• According to All Aboard Florida, the station will create more than $333 million in economic impact for Broward County through 2021.

• Construction of the station and the rail line is expected to bring 800 jobs to Broward County, All Aboard has said.

MiamiCentral

All Aboard Florida’s Miami station, known as MiamiCentral, will be the company’s largest stop.

The station spans six city blocks in the heart of downtown Miami and will include nearly 1 million square feet of office and retail space and more than 1,300 apartments, condos and hotel rooms.

• Located within walking distance of the American- Airlines Arena and a short shuttle ride from PortMiami.

• Includes five train tracks, which will be elevated 50 feet above a mix of businesses and restaurants.

• Will connect to Tri-Rail and two other rail projects: Metromover, a 4.4-mile electrically powered transit system, and Metrorail, a 25-mile rail line with nearly two dozen stations.

• The project includes five buildings and the station.

• A super tower, planned just south of the station, will include 600,000 square feet of office space, 280 residences and 250 hotel rooms.

• Two residential apartment buildings will rise above the station’s platforms. One will stand 30 stories, the other will rise 33 stories. The buildings will have a combined total of 800 parking spaces.

• A fourth building, standing 10 stories at the northern edge of the station, will include 190,000 square feet of office space and 300 parking spaces.

• The final building will be just west of the station. It will include 35,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The 12-story building will also include 90,000 square feet of office space and 1,100 parking spaces.

• In January, Construction crews installed the first of 29 V-shaped columns that will be dominant structural pieces at all of the company’s South Florida stations. Each column is 70-feet tall.

Opposition

Opponents have continued to fight the rail venture. Martin and Indian River counties have pledged a combined more than $4 million to block Brightline’s second phase, which will run through those communities. The anti-All Aboard Florida group Citizens Against Rail Expansion is also raising money to fight the project.

Martin and Indian River counties filed suit in 2015 over the sale of $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds for the rail project, arguing that federal officials violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental policies when they approved the sale before an environmental study of Brightline’s second phase was complete.

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 counties moot.

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

The original sale would have paid for the second phase of Brightline’s project, connecting West Palm Beach to Orlando.

The new sale will be limited to the rail venture’s first phase between Miami and West Palm Beach — where an environmental review has already been completed.

As a result of the financial change, federal transportation officials have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

But before a decision is made on that request, Martin and Indian River counties say they should be allowed to review documents related to both bond sales.

In court filings, the counties point to a letter Sept. 30 letter from All Aboard President Michael Reininger to federal transportation officials.

In the letter, Reininger said the company planned to consider a second, $1.15 billion bond sale to help pay for rail work between West Palm Beach and Orlando.

Attorneys for Martin and Indian River counties have called a new financing plan for the rail project — made public as a result of the court case — a “scheme” and a “work around” to circumvent the legal challenge.

Tri-Rail

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in May approved a plan allowing Tri-Rail trains to carry passengers to the All Aboard Florida station in downtown Miami.

The regional transportation board, which operates Tri-Rail, was the last of seven groups to vote on the $70 million plan.

Tri-Rail now runs between Palm Beach County and Miami International Airport on the western CSX tracks.

The downtown Miami Tri-Rail stop would give Palm Beach County residents easier access to the American Airlines Arena, Port Miami and other businesses and shopping districts.

Of the roughly 50 daily Tri-Rail trains, about half are expected to travel to All Aboard's Miami station, officials have said.

The station in downtown Miami would also serve as the first stop for Tri-Rail's Coastal Link and would mark the beginning of the expansion of the current Tri-Rail system along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor.
The Coastal Link project would run through coastal downtowns from Miami to Jupiter.