Infrastructure

Behind the Scenes of Brightline, Miami’s Privately Funded Train Project

With service between downtown Miami and West Palm Beach set to begin this month, project officials offered an up-close look at the ambitious undertaking.

by Martin Vassolo, Miami Herald / May 11, 2018
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(TNS) — Past several blocks of machinery and hard-hat construction crews, Brightline workers ignored outside distractions as they mopped floors, squeegeed windows and fidgeted with sliding doors in the soon-to-be-unveiled MiamiCentral train station.

Brightline, the privately funded inter-city express train service, will begin paid service from downtown Miami to West Palm Beach later this month. A fixed date will be announced Friday, but the company invited a Miami Herald reporter to tour its new three-story station just north of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse on Thursday.

Located at 600 NW First Ave., the downtown terminus is — for now — just one component of what Brightline parent company, Florida East Coast Railway Industries, which owns the 11-acre MiamiCentral, expects to be "the new hub for all things transportation, leisure and business." The site spans six blocks between Northwest Third and Eighth streets.

Once completed, the mixed-use development will include large swaths of retail space — including a food hall and a grocery store — two office buildings and 800-plus residential units. One office building, Three MiamiCentral, was completed in February, while a second one — Two MiamiCentral — will have tenants moving in this summer. Brightline passengers can park their cars at a newly built garage nearby.

By 2019, Brightline will share a 50-foot platform with Tri-Rail at MiamiCentral. Further into the future — a MiamiCentral spokeswoman couldn't say when — crews will build a sky bridge directly into the Miami-Dade Government Center Metrorail and Metromover stations.

One of the stars of MiamiCentral will be Central Fare, the 50,000-square-foot food hall slated to debut in the fall, which will feature restaurants 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen, Kuenko, Rosetta Bakery and others. Anchoring the food marketplace will be Monger, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant to be opened by celebrity chefs and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, known for their stints on "Top Chef."

Elsewhere in the multi-use property, Einstein's Bros. Bagels will open up a downtown location this summer, Parliament cafe and Joe & The Juice will come in spring and Starbucks will welcome customers in early 2019.

Brightline, whose trains can reach speeds of 79 mph, advertises roughly 30-minute trips from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, and hour-long rides from Miami to West Palm Beach. Service will expand to Orlando in the future, although construction has already begun.

Brightline's current fare between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach varies between $10 and $15, with the more expensive "select" package featuring larger seats and complimentary food and beverage options.

The company hails its service as the first privately operated U.S. railway in a century.

The company began running its diesel-electric trains between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in January, and soon found itself featured in headlines for the wrong reasons. Since its test runs began in 2017, six people have died in the path of the trains. Some have been ruled suicides, the company has said.

Citing its status as a private company, a Brightline spokesman declined to release ridership data for the first few months of its service, instead stating that ridership numbers have "exceeded expectations."

"This is going to be transformational for the South Florida community," said Patrick Goddard, president and chief operating officer of Brightline.

©2018 Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.