Category Archives: Florida

BRIGHTLINE’S Second Train Arrives, Limited Service To Start In July

Brightline this week heralded a milestone — arrival of its second train — and at the same time announced an apparent setback: When passenger service commences in July it will be even more limited than previously announced.

Instead of carryingpassengers between West Palm Beach and MiamiCentral, a sprawling downtown-Miami rail station with commercial, retail and residential space, Brightline in late July will begin service only between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Service is to expand to Miami in late August, when work on MiamiCentral is complete, according to Brightline. Stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale are “nearing completion,” Brightline said in a news release.

The project’s second phase, full service to Orlando, is at least several years away, with service commencing in 2019 at the earliest, the company estimated in January.  On Monday, Brightline said it is “currently finalizing permitting and will have a better idea of timing to Orlando after operations begin this summer.”

The project has faced opposition from Treasure Coast residents who say the railroad would endanger the public and the environment. It is facing lawsuits by Martin and Indian River counties.

Meanwhile, BrightPink, Brightline’s second completed passenger train, on Monday afternoon rolled through the Treasure Coast on the final leg of its trip from California to the railroad’s maintenance facility in West Palm Beach.

The four-car, two-locomotive train — named for its vivid hue — passed through Vero Beach at 3:45 p.m. and Stuart at 4:25 p.m. The passenger railroad’s first train, BrightBlue, was delivered Dec. 14, but rolled through the region in the early-morning hours.

BrightPink and BrightBlue are the first in Brightline’s five-train fleet that will run along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, eventually between Miami and Orlando.

BrightRed, BrightOrange and BrightGreen are to be delivered from manufacturer Siemens’ Sacramento plant every six weeks, with all five trains assembled in West Palm Beach by early July, according to Michael Cahill, president, Rail Systems Division.

Brightline said it will hold a grand opening and official launch of the railroad in September.

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The locomotive legacy of U.S. Sugar

A piece of Florida locomotive history has come home to the sunshine state after being away for nearly half a century. Steam Engine No. 148 arrived in Clewiston late last year, although not under its own power. The engine and its tender (fuel and water car) arrived from Colorado strapped to two railroad flat cars. Well, most of it arrived by rail.

“We were able to gather and collect most of the pieces that were already removed from the locomotive,” said Ted Dobrie, chief mechanical officer for U.S. Sugar, “and we crated and cataloged all that equipment and shipped all that back by truck. We’re just missing a couple of minor pieces that we’re going to have to track down.”

So, what does a 97-year-old steam locomotive engine have to do with a company in the business of growing and refining sugarcane? Quite a bit, actually. Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar needed a way to transport sugarcane from about 187,000 acres of fields to its sugar mills.

“When we were started back in the early ’30s, rail transportation was how freight was moved, and there were very few roads of any sort out here,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. “There certainly wasn’t a reliable network for moving sugarcane from the fields to the mill, so our company made a decision at the beginning to put in an industrial private railroad that linked our fields and mill.”

Faced with the same transportation problem that challenged cypress logging companies in Florida, U.S. Sugar pursued the same solution. The company installed about 120 miles of rail across its fields for its internal rail line. Then, to transport its products out as well as haul agricultural equipment and supplies in, the company began operating a short-line freight railroad called the South Central Florida Express, which connects with commercial freight railroads CSX Transportation at Sebring and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) at Fort Pierce.

Between the internal and external lines, the company currently operates nearly 300 miles of rail. A decision originally made for expediency, the rail transportation infrastructure has turned out to provide efficiency for U.S. Sugar’s operations.

“Our trains are one of the things that set U.S. Sugar apart from our colleagues and competitors in the sugar business in the United States,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a transportation method, but over the years it’s become more a transportation advantage because we’re not having to put all that cane into tractor-trailers and haul it out on public roads. It’s much more efficient as well since you can haul up to 100 boxcars of cane behind a locomotive, and that one locomotive is the only part of the train using fuel.”

u-s-sugar-team-locomotives-1930s

“Our CEO is a history buff,” Sanchez said. “He has a love of machinery and of anything historical, so to him it’s fascinating.”

The search eventually led to Monte Vista, Colorado, where No. 148 had been taken for repairs with the intention of operating it, once again, for tourist excursions. However, the 2008 economic downturn stalled the entire tourist railway project and work on the partly disassembled steam engine stopped. U.S. Sugar purchased the legacy locomotive and brought it back to its Clewiston shop for its own locomotive team to restore, using historical diagrams and photos from Bramson. Dobrie said some parts of the project will also require help from engineering consultants who specialize in steam engines.

Dobrie said the restoration could take up to a year and a half. After restoration, Sanchez said U.S. Sugar intends to obtain some period passenger cars and offer excursion rides to draw tourists to Clewiston.

“It’s going to be not only an amazing project, but it’s going to attract marvelous goodwill and bring national attention to United States Sugar,” Bramson said. “Not only do you attract thousands of people out to see the steam engine, but you generate an enormous amount of positive publicity for your company. What they’re doing is for very positive reasons, being most of all a major contribution to the incredible history of United States Sugar, Florida East Coast Railway and the state of Florida itself.”

BRIGHTLINE LeadsThe Charge of Changes In Florida Rails

The first phase of All Aboard Florida’s passenger-rail service is slated to launch in 2017. In the past year, crews have made progress on construction of the Brightline stations in downtown West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Train car manufacturer Siemens also delivered the first train set to Brightline’s maintenance facility just north of West Palm.

This service could be a game-changer for jobseekers looking for work in one of the three station-holding cities, but who don’t necessarily want to live there. The relatively short commute on Brightline could make working in downtown Miami and living in downtown West Palm Beach seem a lot more appealing, when that commuter is facing traffic congestion along the I-95 corridor.

“Starting in 2017, Brightline will transform travel in southeast Florida,” said Brightline CMO Julie Edwards. “The new express passenger rail service will allow more people to live in West Palm Beach and work in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, or vice versa, seamlessly connecting the three cities in less than an hour and without the hassle of dealing with traffic.”

Critics say the increase in rail traffic along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor could create safety and traffic issues. FEC, sister company to All Aboard Florida, is partnering with state and local agencies to implement quiet zones and awareness campaigns along the line.

Bottom line: In the short-term, Palm Beach County will see more train traffic and a push to use Brightline as a commuter service. In the long-term, we could see more of Miami-Dade and Broward counties’ residents moving north to the West Palm Beach area to escape congestion.

Florida East Coast Railway Christmas Train

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — This year marks the sixth annual Christmas Train operated by Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation.  The 2015 FECR Christmas Train will run along the railroad’s 351-mile mainline on the east coast of Florida, offering its employees, their families, customers, and suppliers an opportunity to contribute to the communities that FECR serves.  The train, departing Saturday, December 12 in Jacksonville with Miami as its final destination, will make 8 stops along the way, during which Santa Claus will be on hand to deliver holiday cheer.

At each stop representatives from Toys For Tots will be present to accept donations from the FECR Christmas Train, and will work to distribute the toys to children in need throughout local communities. The FECR Christmas Train is a 501c3, so anyone can donate and receive a tax deduction.

Since the program’s inception five years ago there has been significant yearly growth. “Last year alone we were able to donate more than 40,000 toys and we hope to surpass that goal this year,” said Jim Hertwig, FECR President & CEO. “This event is, and will continue to be a favored tradition for the FECR family. We are proud to be able to once again work alongside the Toys For Tots foundation to contribute to those in need during the holiday season,” he said.

The FECR Christmas Train will stop at the eight railroad crossings listed below, during which strict safety procedures will be in place for the security and enjoyment of everyone in attendance:

City

RR Crossing Location

Times (approximate)

Jacksonville

Mussel Acres Road – West

7:10 AM

St. Augustine

San Sebastian View – East

8:10 AM

New Smyrna Beach

Canal Street – East

10:05 AM

Cocoa

Rosa L. Jones Drive – West

11:45 AM

Fort Pierce

Orange Avenue – West

1:30 PM

West Palm Beach

36th Street – East

3:00 PM

Fort Lauderdale

SW 17th Street – West

4:25 PM

Miami

NE 87th Street – West

5:15 PM

About Florida East Coast Railway
The Florida East Coast Railway (“FECR”) is a 351-mile freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida. It is the exclusive rail provider for PortMiami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach. FECR connects to the national railway system in Jacksonville, Florida, to move cargo originating or terminating there.  Based in Jacksonville, Florida, FECR provides end-to-end intermodal and carload solutions to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality.  For more information, visit www.fecrwy.com.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151123/290366

Upcoming Florida rail service named Brightline

The intercity train that is expected to begin shuttling passengers between Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami in 2017 now has a name: Brightline.

“We are certain Brightline will change how we move around Florida,” Mike Reininger, the president of All Aboard Florida, which is building the rail service, said during a press conference Monday at the construction site of the line’s Miami train terminal.

Reininger explained that the name was chosen to invoke optimism as well as Florida’ sunny weather, and to be suggestive of All Aboard Florida’s goal of redefining the passenger train experience in the United States. The 235-mile line will be the first privately constructed rail service to open in the United States since 1956.

“We will reset the expectations we all have for travel by train,” he said.

In conjunction with the name unveiling, All Aboard Florida also revealed renderings and details Monday of the train cars they will use. They’ll feature a bright palette of colors, most notably yellow and aqua, as well as a sleek, curved front car.

The two-class trains will be outfitted to meet the expectations of the modern traveler, Reininger said. They’ll feature free WiFi, all reserved seating, power outlets available from every seat and wide aisles. Pet-friendly trains will also be offered. So will bicycle and luggage storage.

The line’s four train stations will also have WiFi and power outlets at each seat. Waiting areas will be configured with individualized seating designed for those who wish to do work and for people wanting to socialize.

The rail line, including the trains and stations, is expected to cost more than $3 billion to construct. More than $1 billion will go toward upgrades to the existing Florida East Coast Railway corridor, which was built in the 1880s. Brightline will travel on new track as it heads east/west between Cocoa Beach and Orlando.

All Aboard Florida projects a mid-2016 opening for stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The fourth stop, at Orlando International Airport, is targeted for a late 2017 opening.

Brightline trains will make the three-hour trip 16 times per day in each direction. Tickets will be commissionable for travel agents. Prices have yet to be announced, but All Aboard Florida says they’ll be cheaper than air and similar to the cost of driving between Orlando and South Florida.

Rocla Concrete Tie, Inc. To Construct Manufacturing Plant In Ft. Pierce, Florida

Rocla Concrete Tie, Inc., the largest supplier of pre-stressed concrete ties to North America’s freight and transit railroads, has entered in to a long-term supply agreement with All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast Railway to supply railroad ties. The new agreement will require the construction of a new manufacturing facility in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
The new plant will supply ties to FECR, the All Aboard Florida project, as well as other transit agencies and railroads throughout the Southeast United States. It will be located along the existing FECR mainline in Fort Pierce. This location was chosen because Fort Pierce is the midway point between the major urban hubs of Orlando to the north and Miami to the south, making it the ideal point to manufacture and deliver ties to all of Florida’s growing rail operations, company officials said.

Vice President of Business Development, Brett Urquhart, said, “Rocla is excited to be part of this unique partnership between FECR and All Aboard Florida. The immediate need for concrete ties by the All Aboard Florida passenger rail project helped justify this investment, which will allow us to be an ongoing supplier to any other capital projects of All Aboard Florida & FECR, as well as use the FECR network to reach other customers in the future.”

“Building a new plant in Fort Pierce not only allows us to bring better value products to our key customers, but it will bring 42 full-time, well-paying jobs as well as tax revenue to the city,” he added. Construction on the new facility in Ft. Pierce will begin immediately and the production of concrete ties will start in early 2016.

The Florida East Coast Railway is a 351-mile freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida. It is the exclusive rail provider for Port Miami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach. FECR connects to the national railway system in Jacksonville, Florida, to move cargo originating or terminating there. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, FECR provides end-to-end intermodal and carload solutions to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality.

“Producing concrete crossties in Florida is nothing new for FECR,” said Senior Vice Engineering, Mechanical and Purchasing, Fran Chinnici. “This new plant and our continued relationship with Rocla provides us with a very high quality product and restores the level of productivity and cost effectiveness we have been missing for several years.”

Big Ships Now Welcome At PortMiami

A celebration for the completion of PortMiami’s 50/52 foot deep dredge project and on-dock intermodal rail recently took place today at PortMiami.

More than $1 billion of capital infrastructure projects are now complete, the port announced, and have transformed PortMiami to a major U.S. global gateway. They also make PortMiami the only major logistics hub south of Virginia capable of handling fully laden post-panamax vessels.

PortMiami now offers super post-panamax gantry cranes that can service cargo vessels up to 22 containers wide and up to nine containers above deck and eleven containers below. On-dock intermodal rail service in partnership with Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) today links PortMiami to 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less. A new fast access tunnel connects the port directly to interstate highways providing rapid turnaround time for the movement of import and export goods.

“A new big ship era is here and PortMiami is ready,” said PortMiami Director and CEO Juan M. Kuryla. “I am proud to say that PortMiami is now able to berth post-panamax ships; and we are able to expedite the movement of goods throughout Florida, the continental U.S., and the world, fast and efficiently. We are grateful to the vision of our State and local leaders for making this critical infrastructure project a reality. The completion of PortMiami’s deep dredge and intermodal on-dock rail projects cannot be overstated, PortMiami is now positioned as the most reliable, convenient and efficient global hub on the North American East Coast ready to service the world’s leading ocean carriers.”

“We congratulate our partner PortMiami on the completion of the Deep Dredge which will enable big ships to make a direct call,” said FECR President and CEO Jim Hertwig. “We have come a long way since our on-dock rail groundbreaking in July of 2011, to the completion of the port tunnel last year, and now the completion of the deep dredge. Today FECR runs daily port trains with cargo going to and from global markets that reach 70 percent of the U.S. population in four days or less including next-day service within the State of Florida and second day service throughout the southeast.”