Florida’s new high-speed train is supposed to hit the tracks in only two months, but it still has a long ways to go.
If Brightline is going to start up by the end of the year — as it continues to insist — it must:
— Complete its Miami station, its biggest.
— Upgrade several rail crossings.
— Hire employees.
— Finish testing trains.
— Announce schedules and fares.
Even now, Brightline has declined to say exactly when the service will begin or how much tickets will cost.
“Pricing, schedules and our mobile app and new website will be released closer to launch,” said Brightline CEO David Howard. “We look forward to launching introductory service by the end of the year.”
While construction continues on the MiamiCentral station and rail infrastructure, the stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have been issued certificates of occupancy and are ready to open once service begins.
The company is hiring for jobs that include train engineers, conductors, mechanics, train station managers, security personne, and maintenance staff.
And all five Brightline trains are being tested daily in West Palm Beach to train the on-board crews. One of the cars derailed at 4 mph in the rail yard in February, but no injuries were reported, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Brightline on Friday secured state support to sell bonds to continue funding the $3 billion private enterprise. Officials have said no public funds were being used.
The service is supposed to expand to Orlando, although that is not expected until 2020. That link faces continued opposition from Citizens Against Railroad Expansion, which cites the safety and financial costs to Martin and Indian River counties.
In South Florida, cities and businesses say they are awaiting word on Brightline’s progress and how it will affect them.
The Miami Chamber of Commerce said Brightline officials have been “tight-lipped” and Fort Lauderdale’s chamber president said he keeps asking when it’s going to start.
“We heard summer, we heard fall, now it’s the end of the year,” said Dan Lindblade. “Not quite sure what’s the holdup.”
Dennis Grady, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, attended a state finance committee meeting with Brightline officials in Orlando on Friday.
“We were there to support what we think is truly a tremendous game-changer in the area of transportation,” he said.
Grady is optimistic it will stimulate the economies of Palm Beach County and all of South Florida. And he’s not concerned that the details about the opening and the cost of the service are still unknown.
“It’s like Christmas Eve, everybody wants to know what’s in that package and we can’t wait,” he said. “It’ll happen when it happens.”
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