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Front Page » Transportation » After $345 million buildout, Brightline to run new intercity rail

After $345 million buildout, Brightline to run new intercity rail

Written by on March 23, 2021
After $345 million buildout, Brightline to run new intercity rail

As heralded by a 2019 decision by Miami-Dade commissioners to pay $76 million for a Brightline station near Aventura Mall, county transportation decision-makers last week endorsed the for-profit inter-city rail company’s trains as the preferred mode for a Miami-to-Aventura commuter rail corridor.

It will cost an estimated $345 million to build the necessary rail infrastructure, stations, park-and-ride facilities, maintenance depots and trains, according to a Feb. 18 memo from Aileen Bouclé, director of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization.

Once built, operations and maintenance are expected to cost $16 million a year.

Miami-Dade will ask for half the construction cost from the Federal Transit Administration’s capital investment grant program. To qualify, the county must cooperate with an environmental evaluation of the project.

The plan, Ms. Bouclé wrote, also includes an expectation that the Florida Department of Transportation will contribute a quarter of the project cost. Miami-Dade intends to cover the remainder using funds generated by a local half-percent sales tax known as the half-penny, which county voters approved in 2002 to improve and expand transportation.

Half-penny funds will also cover the cost of the three-acre Aventura station, setting the county’s estimated contribution toward the project’s total construction at $162.25 million. 

“In addition, there is a proposed ‘Access Fee’ for commuter rail to operate on the [Florida East Coast Railway] line,” Ms. Bouclé memo said.

The 13.5-mile route, which is to begin at Brightline’s southernmost station, MiamiCentral in downtown, is called the Northeast Corridor. It’s one of six commuting corridors prioritized for rapid transit upgrades in a 2016 initiative called the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (Smart) Plan.

The route is to run on tracks owned by Florida East Coast Railway, which until 2017 was part of Brightline parent company Florida East Coast Industries. Florida East Coast Industries, owned by Fortress Investment Group, sold Florida East Coast Railway to mining and rail conglomerate Grupo Mexico for $2.1 billion.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties had sought a deal in 2013 with Florida East Coast Industries to create a coastal link between the areas for Tri-Rail on tracks the company owned.

They three counties sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration to begin development of the project.

The effort was later halted, Ms. Bouclé wrote, “to avoid public confusion with the All Aboard Florida project that was being built along the [Florida East Coast Corridor].” All Aboard Florida ultimately became Brightline. 

In November, Miami-Dade commissioners approved a resolution directing Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s administration to begin negotiations with Brightline for the route, a move county Commissioner Sally Heyman, whose district much of the corridor goes through, called “the last piece of the puzzle in establishing the foundation necessary” for a future agreement between the company and county.

Brightline had proposed the route for the Northeast Corridor in early October 2019.

The Aventura station will sit halfway between Brightline’s Miami and Fort Lauderdale stations.

In a December memo to investors, Brightline said it may brand the service differently and could create a subsidiary operator to run it. The company showed plans for five stations between MiamiCentral and Aventura, including Wynwood, Design District, El Portal, North Miami and FIU Biscayne Bay Campus, which abuts Solé Mia, a $4 billion, 184-acre development with nearly 400 rental units, commercial retail and a seven-acre artificial lagoon.

17 Responses to After $345 million buildout, Brightline to run new intercity rail

  1. Phil

    March 24, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Any updates on future stations along the proposed rail line for brightline? Broward County??

  2. Jim

    March 24, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    $345 million for a train station–paid for by tax payers for the benefit of a private corporation?

    The taxpayers would prefer that money going into roads or not being spent at all

    Pre-chronovirus brightline tickets were $15+

    No one rode it then and no one will ride it now

    Who will ride this train?

    • Mike Gillette

      March 25, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      Why does it matter if a private company benefits? The calculation is that PUBLIC benefit will be maximized with private participation. This isn’t a project a private company would undertake on its own.

      We use private contractors to build stuff for publicly funded, publicly consumed products and services all the time. Is that bad? Should the notion of government concessions not exist?

      The rail system never had a chance to prove its viability before COVID. You have no basis for saying “nobody wants this”.

    • Mr. Transit

      March 25, 2021 at 5:54 pm


      The proposal from Brightline is to build a 13+ mile commuter rail line in conjunction with Miami-Dade County and FDOT. I suspect tickets for the commuter train service will be lower than the faster, fewer stops Brightline service.

      With respect to your comments on the $345 million cost, that’s the pretty all-inclusive capital cost, much more than just one train station.

      Lots of people will ride the train given south Florida increasing density and traffic congestion. Plus you will have convenient connections to trains to and from Orlando.

    • George B

      March 27, 2021 at 10:58 am

      No I would much rather this $345 million be spent on rail infrastructure potentially benefiting 3 different counties then close to 1 billion dollars being spent on redoing a mile of the 836 into a giant cluster fuck.

    • M

      May 12, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      I agree!

  3. Tec

    March 25, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Most commonsense people, that want to move around Florida. Folks that don’t want to sit in traffic jams. Folks that understand what being a great steward of resources. Transit oriented development will come. This a great step for Florida’s survival.

  4. Charles. Emminger

    March 25, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    I’d it possible to have bright line link up for travel to Miami and in and other cities between them

  5. Jeffrey Pletcher

    March 26, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    Wish they’d find a name other than Northeast Corridor, to avoid confusion with the Corridor by the same (longstanding) name in the Northeast U.S.

    • Kurt

      June 11, 2021 at 6:22 pm

      Do not think that is an issue because its in an entirely different region of the country.

  6. J T

    March 27, 2021 at 9:47 pm

    “Northeast Floridor”? “Florida Northeaster”?

  7. Alonso

    March 29, 2021 at 10:49 am

    What about the North corridor that is supposed to extend the metro rail to the stadium in Miami Gardens? I keep hearing that they need federal funding and yet never read about them attempting to apply for it

    • Kurt

      June 11, 2021 at 6:24 pm

      Probably not going to happen because the density is to low for that corridor.

  8. Ana van Gilst

    April 2, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    If the ticket costs the same as the $250/month I spend on gas+toll commuting from Coral Gables to Aventura I will happily pay for it. One of the things I miss the most about living in NJ and working in NYC is the “me” time I had on the train twice a day. I read, meditated, just looked out the window. Traffic in South Florida has been going from bad to worse for many years now. I will gladly pay for it and it can’t come fast enough. I wish I could find updates on the construction of the Aventura Station.

  9. David Newhouse

    April 9, 2021 at 10:07 am

    This is great any big city-think nyc, Paris, and look London need mass traffic to survive. Otherwise gridlock.

  10. Jonathan Nelson

    April 21, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    If Brightline and Tri-Rail are going to use the coastal link, how about the track’s owners (FEC) run a few passenger trains a day up the corridor to Jacksonville. So many people wanting to visit Daytona, Vero, Melbourne, St. Augustine, Stuart Ft. Pierce, Jenson Beach, need I say more?! I’ll make a toast, sure do miss the Florida Easwt Coast! They ran some magnificent trains!

    Jonathan Nelson

    • Kurt

      June 11, 2021 at 6:24 pm

      I think that may be in their ling term plans.