Brightline underscores safety measures after deadly Amtrak crash

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 6:50 PM EST

It’s a green light from the federal government to move forward with a project which could transform travel in Central Florida.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Record of Decision, a final step as it relates to an environmental impact plan.

That decision allows Brightline, which is debuting a privately-funded express train line between Miami and Orlando, to move forward with phase 2: construction of the leg between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport.

Nestled in OIA's newest complex just south of the airport — an Automated People Mover/Intermodal Terminal facility — the airport said the rail service will entice passengers.

“You have trains, planes and automobiles all in one place," said Phil Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which operates the airport. “It’s another option for visitors, particularly European visitors. International visitors are used to having train stations at their airports."

Rail safety is a critical consideration, just as an Amtrak high-speed train jumped the track in Washington state earlier this week, killing several people.

In the wake of that investigation, Amtrak’s president said that "positive train control" — a technology that automatically slows down or stops a train if it senses it's speeding — was not activated.

Brightline said in a statement:

"The Brightline team extends its thoughts and prayers to those affected in the recent Amtrak incident. Brightline is working toward operational readiness in close coordination with federal authorities to ensure we meet the highest safety standards. ...

The safety of Brightline’s guests, teammates and stakeholders is our highest priority. We are installing safety measures such as a new automatic train control signal system, Positive Train Control, crossing predictor units to provide consistent warning time to motorists of a train’s approach, and grade crossing improvements at every at-grade intersection."

Brightline's Orlando station will be at the new Intermodal Terminal Facility at Orlando International Airport. (Spectrum News 13)

As Brightline's initial service begins — from Miami to West Palm Beach — construction on the second phase of the privately-funded line should begin in 2018, with rail infrastructure and building of five new train sets taking around 30 months, according to the company.

The entire line, 235 miles of track situated along Henry Flagler's original rail lines, stretches along the east coast of the peninsula.

Crews still need to construct 35 miles of track from Cocoa to OIA, running along the Beachline Expressway.

Brightline has yet to reveal how much the three-hour journey from Orlando to Miami will cost passengers, only commenting that ticket prices will be “competitive” to the cost of driving a car along the route, taking into account tolls and parking.

The company will announce their schedule and pricing before they launch service.