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Lakelander Mar 22, 2012 7:45 PM

The Brightline Thread
Jacksonville-based FEC has just announced they are moving forward with developing their own statewide passenger rail service between Orlando and Miami. They plan to have it up and running by 2014 before expanding it to Tampa and Jacksonville.


Nation’s First-of-its-Kind Privately Owned and Operated System Will Connect Florida’s Largest Cities

MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. (FECI), the owner of Florida’s premier passenger rail corridor, is developing a privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail service to connect South Florida and Orlando, which will be operational in 2014. By connecting the most visited city in the United States with South Florida’s business and vacation destinations, the passenger rail project, called All Aboard Florida, is designed to serve Florida’s growing number of business travelers, as well as families and tourists traveling for pleasure.

The All Aboard Florida passenger rail project will connect South Florida to Orlando through a 240-mile route combining 200 miles of existing tracks between Miami and Cocoa and the creation of 40 miles of new track to complete the route to Orlando. Eventually the system could be expanded with connections to Tampa and Jacksonville.

More than fifty million people travel between South and Central Florida annually, largely over highly congested highways. All Aboard Florida is envisioned to transform the way people travel throughout the state, offering a faster, safer, and more enjoyable mode of transportation between Florida’s two largest metropolitan areas.

Targeted to begin service in 2014, the approximately $1 billion project will operate on a regular schedule throughout the day transporting business and leisure passengers between South Florida and Orlando in approximately three hours.
Full article:

Rail>Auto Mar 22, 2012 8:11 PM

This is great news. What kind of speeds is FEC planning on? Unfortunately I doubt it will be the full 220 mph high speed rail but I'm hoping it will be faster than Amtrak.

Lakelander Mar 22, 2012 9:06 PM

The top speed would be 110mph.


The train, with a top speed of 110 mph, would target the millions of people who travel between Central and South Florida. The trip would take about three hours.

If the route is as successful as FECI hopes, it could be expanded to Tampa and Jacksonville, the company said.

Fares were not announced, nor were exact stops. Barney said feasibility, revenue and ridership studies could be ready within a couple of months.

It is unclear how the train would get the 40 miles from the east coast to Orlando, and whether it would link with Orlando International Airport or Walt Disney World. The most likely way to get to Orlando would be along the right of way of the BeachLine Expressway, which is jointly owned by the state and Metro Orlando's expressway authority.

The proposed route appears similar to the second leg of a high-speed train system that Gov. Rick Scott scuttled last year. Many experts said the Miami-Orlando leg would have had more potential than the Tampa-to-Orlando route that Scott nixed.

Few public officials and transit experts in Central Florida had heard of the proposal Thursday.

MetroPlan, which sets transportation policy in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, had not been notified, said spokeswoman Cynthia Lambert.

And officials at the Florida Department of Transportation had only seen the news release.

But FDOT spokesman Dick Kane said, "The department is always willing to listen to private sector proposals to the tune of $1 billion."
full article:

I'm guessing that this is a way for them to become a freight player in Orlando and Tampa. Currently, CSX is the only major rail carrier in those metros. This should be big news around the state over the next couple of days, as the details come out.

bobdreamz Mar 22, 2012 10:17 PM

Interesting proposal to say the least. If it does come to fruition it will probably kill Amtrak's route between Miami & Orlando. I have personally riden the Amtrak route and it takes about 6 hours since they stop at every podunk town in between so this would be a vast improvement.
As for building an extra 40 miles of track between Cocoa & Orlando I wonder if the state and the Orlando Expressway Authority would cede a right of way to the FEC since the SR 528 / Bee Line Expressway is a tolled road.
If it follows the Bee Line route it will obviously connect to the Orlando Airport & continue west until it would eventually intersect with Sunrail whenever that gets down to Orlando.

sammyg Mar 22, 2012 10:20 PM

How much track do they currently control? It seems like it would take longer than 2 years to build out that line, with stations.

Lakelander Mar 22, 2012 10:37 PM

They already have 200 miles of track in place and in great condition. To get to Orlando, they would need to build 40 miles of track. I assume they'll probably want the median of the BeachLine, which is what the HSR project Rick Scott killed was going to use. That would give them a straight shot right into OIA, International Drive, Sunrail connectivity and Disney. I imagine, this will kill Amtrak's horribly operated service statewide, assuming the two entities don't end up teaming resources for this system (ex. like California's Amtrak corridor operations).


FECI also can count on the backing of U.S. John Mica, R-Winter Park, chairman of the House transportation committee.

"This is the type of private sector initiative that has my strong support," Mica said in a statement. "Hopefully this project will be a national model to demonstrate the efficiencies of private sector transportation projects that do not put the taxpayers at risk."

Barney said FECI has not reached out to Disney or most public officials. The announcement, she said, was a way to let people of their intentions. "Today really begins our conversation," she said.

Probably the biggest potential hurdle to the train is finances. Few mass transit systems are privately run because they are so expensive to start and operate. Government often underwrites them instead.

But Barney said FECI should be able to overcome the expense because its rail company already owns 200 miles of what would be a 240-mile route from Miami to Orlando. It also owns trains, but they haul freight, not passengers.

hammersklavier Mar 22, 2012 11:58 PM

Like all American railroads of a certain age, the FEC once operated passenger trains, too.

Lakelander Mar 23, 2012 12:52 AM

Yeah, they basically built Florida a century ago. It appears like their dusting off Henry Flagler's old game plan of using rail infrastructure to spur supporting land development.

ardecila Mar 23, 2012 12:54 AM

Hmm... Financially this is very unusual. It's certainly possible for FEC to recoup their operating costs from ticket sales, but to also recoup $1B in capital expense? That's a very tall order.

It makes me think that FEC will be demanding a grant from the Feds somehow (which requires the Feds to HAVE a grant program...) Maybe Mica will support additional HSR funding if private groups like this step up to operate.

I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm strongly in favor of additional and better rail service for the US and don't really care whether it's Amtrak or private, so long as it interfaces well with the national system. Amtrak has strong institutional inertia and a resistance to change, which is only reinforced by the subsidies they get year after year regardless of their ridership. It sounds like FEC has already committed to providing a good customer experience with frequent service, wifi, and good food.

Lakelander Mar 23, 2012 1:06 AM

For years, there has been talk about connecting Orlando to the Port Canaveral area with freight rail services. While this is being billed as passenger rail, there's no reason the track could not be used to get FEC and NS into two major Florida markets (Orlando and Tampa) where CSX is currently the only major player. Over the next few months, we'll find out more about their real game plan but I wouldn't doubt if freight access to Orlando, Tampa, and Port of Tampa is a "side benefit." It also looks like they'll probably want the State to donate the ROW that was set aside for HSR. This should be interesting.

ardecila Mar 23, 2012 1:33 AM

If the track is built to high-speed standards with the possibility of future electrification, that's fine by me.

llamaorama Mar 23, 2012 2:24 AM

Something I noticed about the FEC's line looking at maps is that it very directly and conveniently serves the center of all the coastal cities in Florida.

If there was a freight line that could be repurposed for passenger use, that would be it.

Kngkyle Mar 23, 2012 2:34 AM

This makes a lot more sense than the Tampa to Orlando line proposed a few years ago.

electricron Mar 23, 2012 2:37 AM


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 5638138)
If the track is built to high-speed standards with the possibility of future electrification, that's fine by me.

Look at the Beeline Expressway using Google Earth or another mapping program. It's almost straight as an arrow. Building within the median of the tollway would require grade separation, at least on the new tracks. So, it'll be perfect for upgrading to HSR operations in the future.
The only real problems I see with using the median of the Beeline is once that corridor reaches Orlando. There's several highway bridges over the Beeline, I assume with concrete pillars in the median holding the overpasses up that the rail line would have to avoid, while at the same time the width of the median shrinks to almost nothing just north of the airport property. Of course, the rail line could leave the median and enter airport property. It'll have to to reach the existing wye just south of the Beeline anyways. I'm just not sure of the geography of that area, if such a rail routing would be possible. Don't forget, freight trains don't like grades, and we all know FEC would also want to run freights over the new line.

electricron Mar 23, 2012 2:43 AM


Originally Posted by Kngkyle (Post 5638213)
This makes a lot more sense than the Tampa to Orlando line proposed a few years ago.

Tampa to Orlando, had projected costs over $2 Billion, and was less than 100 miles long. This proposal early projections has projected costs around $1 Billion, and is 240 miles long.

What worries me most about this proposal is the lack of stations between Orlando and West Palm Beach. You would think a station in Melbourne/Coco area would be appropriate, if only to connect to the cruise terminals at Cape Canaveral.

tayser Mar 23, 2012 2:51 AM


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 5638138)
If the track is built to high-speed standards with the possibility of future electrification, that's fine by me.

125mph/200kph would be perfect over this distance, the economics would probably skew off the rails (pardon pun). Having trouble finding the main / existing line already in situ to have a look at the type of curvature and the like.... anyone want to help out? lol

Miami-Orlando - what would a potential stopping pattern me?

Miami - For Lauderdale - West Palm Beach - Melbourne - Orlando? Too many stops would slow the service down too much if you go above 125m/200kph top speed trains

tayser Mar 23, 2012 2:59 AM

Actually found it (mainline) - it's incredibly straight which is conducive to higher-speeds outside the urban areas but three issues I can see just looking at Sat maps:

1) a lot of single track
2) heavily urbanises around the track
3) level crossings galore!

Lakelander Mar 23, 2012 3:34 AM


Originally Posted by electricron (Post 5638219)
Tampa to Orlando, had projected costs over $2 Billion, and was less than 100 miles long. This proposal early projections has projected costs around $1 Billion, and is 240 miles long.

What worries me most about this proposal is the lack of stations between Orlando and West Palm Beach. You would think a station in Melbourne/Coco area would be appropriate, if only to connect to the cruise terminals at Cape Canaveral.

They haven't announced station locations yet. I'm sure there will be a lot more stations along the corridor. The graphic is just for illustrative purposes. Also, the Tampa/Orlando HSR project cost so much because it was HSR. This will be traditional trains at speeds of 110mph using a line where 200 miles of track are already in place. I'm interested to see if it will be strictly long distance intercity rail, corridor service like the Pacific Surfliner, or a mix of both. I'm hoping its a mix of both because Florida needs corridor service moreso than rail that skips past population centers (ex. Daytona, Melbourne, St. Augustine, Lakeland, etc.) between the four major metros.

goat314 Mar 23, 2012 3:36 AM

Yeah...Private Rail! Only a billion dollars for hundreds of miles of rail. Wow! Let me guess...they only need $999 million in public assistance. :rolleyes:

Lakelander Mar 23, 2012 3:51 AM

200 of the 240 miles are already in place and used by the FEC for freight service.

Many of the cities already have existing stations still remaining in their downtown cores from the time when FEC ran passenger trains (they stopped in 1968). The last 40 miles appear to be state owned ROW in the middle of the Beach Line Expressway, which would connect the FEC directly with Orlando International Airport and Sunrail (now under construction). We're all waiting for more detail but I wouldn't be surprised if the plan calls for the State to let them use the ROW that had been reserved for the HSR project Rick Scott killed last year.

Also, FECI has a real estate development arm called Flagler Development.



Our company was founded in 1892 by Henry M. Flagler, an American pioneer who played a key role in Florida’s development.

It was Henry who recognized Florida’s potential. He developed dozens of resorts along Florida’s east coast and his Florida East Coast Railway system to transport visitors. His rail line stretched 351 miles from Jacksonville to Miami. This essential infrastructure led to and supported the major agricultural and commercial boom that took place in Florida in the early 1900s.

While expanding his railroad, Henry amassed a significant portfolio of Florida land, which laid the foundation for our real estate company. Throughout the nineties, Florida East Coast Industries—the holding company for the railroad and Henry’s land portfolio—grew into one of Florida’s commercial real estate leaders with 55 office and industrial buildings and 19,000 acres of land in Jacksonville, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.


In 2007, Florida East Coast Industries was purchased by Fortress Investment Group. Shortly thereafter, Fortress separated the railroad and real estate subsidiaries into two separate companies—Flagler and Florida East Coast Railway—so each could focus on its primary line of business.

Today, Flagler is positioned as a private real estate investment trust (REIT) and is recognized as Florida’s most trusted and proven full-service commercial real estate company.

They operate somewhat different from larger companies like CSX. Don't be surprised if opening additional land up to TOD and industrial development is a part of their long term strategy.

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