Here's the latest on Virgin Trains' $4B Orlando-to-West Palm route

Virgin Trains USA is continuing to make progress on its $4 billion route set to connect Orlando to Miami.

The Miami-based train company, formerly known as Brightline, revealed in a monthly update that work related to draining land and clearing space has continued in its construction zones, which include areas at Orlando international Airport, alongside State Road 528 and on the coast from Cocoa to West Palm Beach. The project, on which site work commenced in May, is expected to take 36 months and be completed in 2022.

Here's what crews were able to complete in August, as well as what's to come:

  • Zone 1 vehicle maintenance facility and station at Orlando International Airport: Demucking operations have begun at the site, along with installation of drainage equipment for retention pond dewatering. Crews have cleared the site. Milestones for September include continued de-mucking and other water removal work, along with excavation and embankment operations.
  • Zones 2 and 3 include 40 miles of new rail from Cocoa to Orlando International Airport: Zone 2, which includes work at the airport, had begun "direct fixation track" installation through the platform, micropile (deep foundation element) installation and continued clearing activities. Zone 3, which includes much of the east/west corridor to Cocoa, relocated gopher tortoises in the area and began clearing activities. Zone 2 will have continued planning work during September, as well as physical work such as the removal of subsoil and embankment placement midfield through the existing pond. Zone 3 crews in September will submit final drainage plans for a section to Central Florida Expressway Authority for approval, as well as a complete permit modification for a dirt/sand pitplan.
  • Zone 4 reconstruction of 129 miles of track and infrastructure from West Palm Beach to Cocoa: Gopher tortoise surveys were completed, with their removal from the right-of-way to other sites starting in mid-September. Deliveries of materials continued through August, including a fourth train with owner-supplied materials for construction. In September, crews will continue receiving special trackwork deliveries in West Palm Beach and at the right-of-way, as well as the start clearing activities       

"Right now, it's just the work," New York-based Virgin Trains USA financial backer Fortress Investment Group co-founder Wes Edens previously told Orlando Business Journal. "We're fully permitted and funded. As with any construction project, there will be twists and turns, but we've had experience with construction and operating on the southern segment since 2014. That's been a great experience both in the building and operation of it, because we are a year into operating."

The project is expected to create 10,000 jobs and generate $650 million in state, federal and local tax revenue.



Progress comes as the state gave Virgin Trains more time to negotiate the right of way for its Orlando-to-Tampa route with the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT told sister paper Tampa Bay Business Journal the negotiations with all parties are ongoing and the deadline was extended to Oct. 3. However, FDOT did not provide a reason why.

Virgin Trains said in its unsolicited bid that it hasn’t identified potential station locations, but the railway route would start at Orlando International Airport and continue into downtown Tampa. The company previously mentioned that between Tampa and Orlando, there may be potential stops in Lakeland, Disney World or another theme park and possibly the Central Florida commuter rail SunRail at its Meadow Woods station.


SOURCE  Orlando Business Journal - Ryan Lynch published on September 23, 2019.