Brightline’s Orlando station won’t open until at least 2019

Rendering of MiamiCentral (Credit: SOM/Smilodon CG)
Rendering of MiamiCentral (Credit: SOM/Smilodon CG)

UPDATED March 8, 5:40 p.m.: Brightline’s Miami-to-Orlando train service won’t be up and running until at least the third quarter of 2019, about two years later than initially planned. 

While Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are slated to open this year, ongoing litigation tied to financing plans for the Orlando station has halted progress for the last leg of the passenger rail, between West Palm and Orlando.

Martin and Indian River counties are trying to block development of Brightline into Central Florida, alleging that the U.S. Department of Transportation violated the National Environmental Protection Act by approving the issuance of $1.75 billion in tax-free bonds to finance All Aboard Florida’s rail service development.

Brightline issued a statement saying the litigation “has not halted progress.”

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Michael Reininger, former Brightline president and now executive director of its parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, told the South Florida Business Journal that the West Palm-to-Orlando portion is lacking permitting and financing standing between now and about 30 months of construction.

“We have been very focused on launching Phase I of the service from Miami to West Palm Beach,” Brightline said in the statement. “Now that we are readying for service launch, we are continuing to make progress on Phase 2 to Orlando. We are currently finalizing permitting and should have a better idea of timing to Orlando after we begin operations this summer.”

All Aboard estimates the total cost of both phases will exceed $2.9 billion. Phase 1 includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, while phase two would extend to the city of Cocoa, near Cape Canaveral, and west from Cocoa to Orlando.

Brightline’s new CEO, Dave Howard, will oversee the next transition from construction to Brightline’s openings later this year. [SFBJ] – Katherine Kallergis