Brightline, the express train that will connect Miami with Orlando, will revolutionize transportation in South Florida and have a positive impact on real estate prices along the route, according to business and civic leaders attending a “sneak peek” of progress at its West Palm Beach station on Tuesday.
“We have to plan for future growth in Florida and Brightline is a critical project,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
“The impact on real estate values along the Brightline route will be nothing but up,” he said.
Florida not only must plan a transportation system that will meet the state’s future growth needs, Wilson added, but projects like this efficiently link housing and workplaces “and help create the quality of life and the communities that millennials want. Quality of life is a magnet for jobs and millennials.”
Noting that highway transportation in South Florida is reaching limits due to constantly heavy traffic, Brightline CEO Dave Howard said that Miami last year attracted 40 million visitors and Orlando 60 million. “Hundreds of millions travel between the two cities and to connecting cities like West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale,” Howard said. Brightline will play an important role in moving part of that traffic comfortably and efficiently, he said.
Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick said Brightline will be a key factor in “taking traffic off I-95 and will make commuting a more pleasant experience.”
At the event, Brightline representatives said that construction of the station, at 501 Evernia Street, began in 2015 and is now nearly completed. It consists of 60,000 square feet of station space, a parking garage and train platform built on 2 acres of land.
The two-level station will have lounges for standard and premium passengers, as well a conference center. Brightline has not yet revealed its ticket prices.
Near the entrance, the company is erecting a 24-story residential tower that will have 290 units.
The station will connect the neighborhood’s existing trolley, pedestrian and road networks and will have links to the Tri-Rail and Amtrak West Palm Beach station, creating a new transportation hub for the West Palm Beach Area, Brightline said.
The privately funded train, scheduled to start service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in “late summer” of this year, will offer express service, traveling at an average of 80 miles per hour between Miami and Orlando. After the first trains begin running between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, service will begin to Miami. The Orlando route and station have been delayed due to litigation.
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill worked in association with Zyscovich Architects to design the Brightline stations.
Brightline is owned by Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, which in turn is owned by private equity funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group, LLC. Aside from All Aboard Florida/Brightline, FECI owns Flagler, a major real estate owner and developer in Florida.