Brightline, Tri-Rail Consider New Routes for Coastal Neighborhoods

The latest Brightline trains,(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The passenger trains serving our region may soon take a whole new direction.

To start, Brightline has plans to bring its train closer to some of South Florida’s coastal neighborhoods.

The company says it is seeking to build a five-stop service in Miami.

Specifically, the train would travel between Aventura, where a Brightline station is currently in the early stages of construction, and the company’s Virgin MiamiCentral station.

The $425 million project would use a separate line from its high speed operation.

Meanwhile, Tri-Rail has wanted for several years to establish a three-county “Coastal Link” along the Florida East Coast line, which is controlled by Brightline.

A Tri-Rail spokesman says their executives plan to review the proposal between Brightline and Miami-Dade “to see how it may affect our efforts.”

“A commuter rail service that leverages our corridor offers a tremendous public benefit, and we’re excited to advance a plan that has been well-studied and long discussed in South Florida,” explains Brightline President Patrick Goddard in a statement.

The proposed Brightline station stops would include Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus, North Miami, El Portal, Wynwood and the city’s Design District.

The Brightline trains have not been operating since late March, when the company suspended service due to the coronavirus pandemic. It laid off 250 employees and pledged to resume operations at some point in the near future.

“As South Florida starts its phased re-opening, the team at Brightline is monitoring current events and evaluating scenarios for providing passenger service. However, we do not anticipate resuming operations in the coming months,” the company says on its website in a message to customers.

It continues, “Due to CDC social distancing guidelines, mandated work-from-home policies and other considerations, it is expected to take a long period of time for service demand to return to pre-virus levels.”

Tri-Rail, which serves 18 stations between Palm Beach County and Miami International Airport, continues to operate. It connects to downtown Miami via Metro-Rail.

At the same time, Brightline, which is in the process of being re-branded as Virgin Trains USA, continues building a 170-mile expansion to take passengers from South Florida to Orlando International Airport. A new stop is also in the works in Boca Raton.

In addition, Dania Beach has tentatively included a station for Tri-Rail’s long-discussed “Coastal Link.”

A 9-mile Miami-Dade link would allow Tri-Rail riders to take one train from Palm Beach and Broward counties, and from west Miami-Dade to downtown Miami and the Brightline station.

However, that service cannot start until a train control system is completed that would give Tri-Rail’s trains access to the downtown station.

Last year, Tri-Rail executive director Steven Abrams said he heard from leaders in Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Hollywood and Jupiter who want Tri-Rail stations in their municipalities.

He explains that any future station would have to be built “at no cost” to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which owns Tri-Rail.

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