PRIVATE inter-city operator Brightline has completed construction of its 273.5km extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando in the United States, paving the way for the launch of passenger services between southern and central Florida in September.

The Orlando extension broke ground in June 2019, a year after Brightline services began operating between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Additional stations were opened in central Boca Raton and Aventura in 2022 as construction to Orlando continued.

A ceremony to mark the end of construction was held at Brightline’s Orlando station at Orlando International Airport, attended by Orlando mayor, Mr Buddy Dyer, Orange County mayor, Mr Jerry Demings, Palm Beach County mayor, Mr Gregg Weiss, Aventura mayor, Mr Howard Weinberg, and Miami mayor, Mr Francis Suarez.

Brightline is continuing testing between West Palm Beach and Orlando at up to 177km/h. Once this is complete, Brightline will conduct crew certification and revenue service demonstration.

The Orlando extension is divided into four zones. Work on Zone 1 has included the construction of a 12,820m2 rolling stock maintenance facility on a 25ha site south of Orlando International Airport. The facility can service 16 trains a day, and is equipped with a fully-automated train washing plant and a 302,832 litre biodiesel fuel farm. Zone 1 also includes Brightline’s 3469.9m2 Orlando station, located within a 7432.2m2 building adjacent to Terminal C at Orlando International Airport.

Zone 2 includes a 5.6km section within Orlando International Airport, which Brightline says was one of the most complex and challenging sections to build of the entire project. The double-track alignment line runs under active airport taxiways and over service roads and includes six bridges, two underpasses and several improvements to airport infrastructure.

Zone 3 includes a 56.3km corridor of new rail alignment following the Beachline Expressway/SR 528 corridor between Orlando International Airport and Cocoa. Work here included building 18 new bridges, three underpasses and new drainage installations, laying 96 track-km of new rail and installing signalling.

Work on Zone 4 included the upgrade of the 207km existing railway between Cocoa and West Palm Beach from US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Class 4, where the maximum speed for passenger trains is 128km/h, to Class 6 which will enable Brightline services to operate at up to 177km/h, using a new second track.

Work included moving 90km of existing track, laying 160km of new Class 6 track within the existing right of way, the rehabilitation of 45km of sidings, the installation or relocation of approximately 80 turnouts and crossovers, relocation of optic fibre cabling ducts parallel to the right of way, and upgrades to 156 level crossings. Civil works  included replacing 19 bridges including two movable bridges, the replacement of the Loxahatchee River bridge and the rehabilitation of the St. Lucie River bridge. 

Tickets have now gone on sale for services from Orlando to Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach from September. Brightline will offer one-way Smart fares starting at $US 79 for adults and $US 39 for children and one-way premium fares starting at $US 149.  

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