Brightline finishes construction on Orlando railway connecting to Miami

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Florida Construction News staff writer

Brightline has wrapped up construction on the railway lines leading into Orlando, a milestone for the project that will one day one connect Miami to the City Beautiful via rail.

Brightline has completed construction on more than 170 miles of new track, officials announced, confirming departures to Miami will begin by Sept. 1.

Brightline’s Orlando expansion broke ground in June 2019, one year after operations began in South Florida between its Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations. Additional stations were opened in downtown Boca Raton and Aventura in 2022 as construction to Orlando continued. Brightline is the first private entity to deliver an intercity rail system since Henry Flagler built the railroad more than a century ago.

Phase 1 and 2 construction generated more than 10,000 jobs and $6.4 billion in economic impact to the state of Florida Construction teams worked more than seven million hours battling through the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages to finish the 170 mile corridor extension.

Mayors, members of Brightline’s construction management team and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority commemorated the end of construction with the creation of an iconic photo that symbolizes the connection between Miami and Orlando by rail.

Brightline’s Orlando extension project is divided into four zones, which includes a state-of-the-art vehicle maintenance facility, tenant buildout of the Orlando station at Orlando International Airport, 56 bridges, three underpasses and upgrades to 156 railroad crossings.

Brightline has made safety improvements at all 156 railroad crossings along the 129-mile corridor from Cocoa to West Palm Beach. Those improvements vary per crossing, but include new crossing gates, signal systems, pedestrian gates, pavement markings and roadway profiles. Where trains will operate above 79 mph, crossings have quad gates or medians to prevent motorists from driving around lowered crossing gates.

Brightline is working closely with community partners, government agencies and news media to spread the word and highlight rail safety via multiple channels including on social media and through public service announcements.

Completion of engineering achievements include

  • Over two million spikes and bolts
  • 3 million tons of granite and limestone transported by 20,000 railcars
  • 225 million pounds of 100 percent recycled American steel
  • 6 million cubic yards of rail embankment fill
  • 450,000 concrete ties made in Fort Pierce

Crews used a box-jacking method for the first time outside the northeast to build two train underpasses in a fraction of the time it would take using conventional methods.

Precast concrete boxes under two Central Florida roadways took just weeks to complete, compared to traditional underpass methods that would have shut down local roadways for nearly a year. Hydraulic jacks were used to move the concrete boxes, each weighing more than 3,000 tons, the equivalent of 15 Boeing 757’s, standing three stories high and holding three semi-trucks end-to-end. The installation moved at  approximately 3 feet per hour,  running 24/7.

“Completing this project is the culmination of more than a decade of dedication, determination and hard work. Our team has shown its relentless ability to navigate and overcome challenges to bring us where we are today. We have built something remarkable, and I am excited to see millions of people ride brighter,”said Mike Reininger, CEO of Brightline.

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