Category Archives: Florida East Coast

Brightline rail will start with deeply discounted fares

The new Brightline rail service linking Miami to West Palm Beach with a stop in Fort Lauderdale will start with deeply discounted fares when it takes its first runs in late summer and offers full service in the early fall, CEO Dave Howard says.

While he wouldn’t reveal the fare structure, Mr. Howard told a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation meeting last week that the discounted cost is “going to be less than the cost of driving your car.”
Fares, he said, won’t be revealed until just before operations begin. He did not provide specific dates.

The full service in the fall, he said, will amount to 32 round trips daily between Miami and West Palm Beach.

The West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations, built expressly for the Brightline service, are getting their final touches, Mr. Howard said, while the massive station complex in downtown Miami handled by parent All Aboard Florida continues to rise.

Asked to predict the status of the railroad next June, he said that Brightline will then be on the way to carrying 3 million passengers a year.
“The railroad is the answer of the future,” traveling on a line that was built by railroad magnate Henry Flagler just before 1900. “What an awesome opportunity to reinvent that system.”

The railroad as conceived by its owner, Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, was to be a link between Miami and Orlando, linking to Orlando’s cluster of globally known theme attractions. But communities along the route have tried to sidetrack the planned operations, delaying that longer part of the run.

Mr. Howard said only that the Brightline will be “ultimately connecting to Orlando in phase 2 of our project.” He did not provide an estimate of how long that might take.

He did note, as he has in the past, that no privately funded passenger rail service has been completed in the US in the past 100 years. “This is a privately funded project that has enormous public benefits,” he said.
He said the level of service planned on the line now exists nowhere in the nation.
That might help to cut into the car-centric culture in the region.
“Yes, we need to change behavior, Mr. Howard conceded, “but the behavior that we have to change is painful. So it should be relatively easy” to motivate South Floridians to ride the rails rather than suffer in heavy traffic.
As for the impact on the community, Mr. Howard, who arrived here in March from New York, where he ran sports-oriented organizations, said that he hears a lot from employers about dependency on cars impeding business growth. “They can’t afford to lose people for hours in the day in their cars just to attend meetings,” he said.

As for getting Millennials to ride the Brightline, he said that the generation is much more favorably inclined to alternative travel modes than their elders and they already feel connected to city centers. Brightline, he said, is one of the solutions to connect the cities together.

Mr. Howard said that the owners of the Brightline feel good about their investment. The cost was low, because they already owned the right-of-way. At a cost of a little more than $1 billion for the five train sets and stations combined, he said, “this is actually an extraordinarily efficient investment.”

BRIGHTLINE Gives Show & Tell At Town Meeting

BBgest cheers came when Brightline officials told a town hall audience that the express passenger trains would be serving alcohol when service begins later this summer.

That was just one of the amenities promised to about two dozen potential riders who attended an information meeting at the ArtServe center in Fort Lauderdale.

Several heard — for the first time — about the sleek new trains that would zip riders between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in 30 minutes beginning in late July. It will also take a half hour to get from Fort Lauderdale to Miami when that route begins in August.

Officials twice dodged questions about how much it would cost to ride the high speed train, adding that they would announce a menu of fares and ticket packages closer to when the service begins.

“We’re not announcing that yet [but the cost] will be comparable to driving a car,” said Ali Soule, Brightline spokeswoman. “But, more convenient, reliable and comfortable and you won’t be stuck in traffic.”

With about 30 Brightline trains added to nearly 18 freight trains daily, people wanted to know how much more noise their neighborhoods would have to endure.

Most of the railroad crossing modifications have been done to comply with federal Quiet Zone requirements, Soule said.

There are about 200 crossings along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and West Palm Beach.

The additions of medians, four-way or quad-gates, signals and signs at almost every crossing will end the need for passenger and freight train to blast their horns as a warning to drivers and pedestrians.

After 1OO+ Years, Private Industry Will Build Rail Infrastructure

The last time a private American company built rail infrastructure was more than 100 years ago. But this summer’s launch of Brightline service, connecting downtown Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, could propel private passenger rail forward.

The trio of southeast coastal-Florida cities, which comprise the destinations in the first phase of the $3 billion, 235-mile project, are well suited to testing a privately funded rail revival. “We have to challenge the monopoly of the car and adapt to changing trends of millennials,” says Brightline president Mike Reininger, referring to the dual desires of young adults to settle in cities and do without cars. Between 2000 and 2012, this demographic increased in population 24.7 percent around Brightline’s service corridor, 118 percent around Miami alone, while auto congestion in the area consistently ranked among the world’s worst traffic. Brightline uses the century-old Florida East Coast Railway corridor, on which its parent organization ships freight, although the right-of-way access still had to undergo extensive community review.

The company’s new investments should yield benefits for passengers and the wider public. Perhaps most significant, its Miami terminal links three different commuter lines while its groundfloor retail space stitches together four downtown neighborhoods, says Roger Duffy, design partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York. The firm designed all three stations in association with Miami-based Zyscovich Architects.

The terminal is noteworthy visually as well. “The architectural expression is in the base structure,” says Duffy, who adds that visible V-bracing and multimodal connections at the smaller Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations unify the three. Rockwell Group was responsible for Brightline’s colorful branding, including exterior train graphics and car interiors.

The project’s second phase, which is slated to open with the completion of the Intermodal Terminal Facility at Orlando International Airport in 2018, will connect coastal South Florida to that city.

Ferromex’s owner nears deal to acquire Florida East Coast Railway

The owner of Ferrocarril Mexicano (Ferromex), Mexico’s largest railroad operator, is nearing a deal to acquire Florida East Coast Railway for more than $2 billion, including debt.

The potential deal shows that Ferromex’s parent, Mexican mining conglomerate Grupo Mexico , is now seeking to apply its railroad operating expertise to foreign assets after dominating the railway freight sector. The acquisition would come at a sensitive time for relations between the United States and Mexico, following a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and tighten immigration controls. Grupo Mexico has prevailed in an auction for Florida East Coast Railway and is now negotiating final terms with the U.S. regional railroad’s owner, Fortress Investment Group LLC

If the negotiations are completed successfully, a deal could be announced as early as this week, the people added, asking not to be identified because the sale process is confidential. Fortress declined to comment. Ferromex, Grupo Mexico and Florida East Coast Railway did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Based in Jacksonville, Florida East Coast Railway operates a 351-mile (565-km) freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida. Fortress took Florida East Coast Railway private in 2007 for $3.5 billion. Fortress, an investment firm with $69.6 billion in assets under management as of the end of December, agreed last month to sell itself to Japan’sSoftBank Group Corp for $3.3 billion.

Grupo Mexico, one of the world’s largest copper producers, together with Kansas City Southern de Mexico and Ferrovalle, control more than 72 percent of the Mexican rail freight market. Grupo Mexico and Kansas City Southern de Mexico together have a 75 percent stake in Ferrovale. Earlier this month, Mexico’s antitrust watchdog criticized Grupo Mexico and Kansas City Southern de Mexico for using their rail freight market share to fix prices, restrict supply and impede access to their networks.

First finished Brightline train, now steaming to South Florida

Siemens workers gather as the first completed Brightline train gets set to roll from the manufacturing facility in Sacramento, Calif., bound for South Florida.

The train, consisting of two diesel-electric locomotives and four coaches, all decked out in Brightline Blue, arrived in West Palm Beach on Wednesday after a 3,000-mile journey from the Siemens manufacturing hub in Sacramento to South Florida. By rail, of course.

The train will now begin undergoing testing along the Florida East Coast Railway line between West Palm Beach and Miami, the company said.

Brightline’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries subsidiary All Aboard Florida, is scheduled to start regular express passenger service between West Palm and Miami, with a stop in Fort Lauderdale, next summer. The company intends to add service to Orlando in 2018.

US Sugar to Repair Old Florida East Coast Steam Engine

U.S. Sugar today welcomed home the return of Engine No. 148, a steam locomotive it used in the 1950s to haul sugarcane from the fields to its mill.

U.S. Sugar re-acquired the steam engine from a private owner and plans to spend the next year or more restoring the retired Florida East Coast engine. Eventually, U.S. Sugar hopes to make the engine operational and add vintage passenger cars for offering public train rides.

“This steam locomotive is part of our history, and we wanted to bring it home,’’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, during a welcoming home celebration in Clewiston. “We intend to restore Engine No. 148 to its former glory.’’

The engine was shipped via rail from Colorado to Clewiston, where a team of about two dozen U.S. Sugar mechanics and others will inspect the engine and perform an engineering study. U.S. Sugar plans to return the 97-year-old engine to operating condition after its decades-long retirement.

“These engines helped fuel Florida and its growth. To be able to save such an important piece of our past is an incredible opportunity that will benefit generations to come,’’ said Seth Bramson, company historian for the Florida East Coast Railway, the only rail system along the east coast of Florida, which dates back to Henry M. Flagler. “This is an indication of the caring and interest of this company in honoring its past and the state’s great history.’’

Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar has long used railroad as an efficient means for transporting goods throughout the region and beyond. It’s the only sugarcane farming company in the continental United States that transports all of its cane to a sugar factory by railroad, which saves on fuel and reduces truck traffic and fossil fuel emissions. Its South Central Florida Express transports sugar, citrus products, fertilizer, farm equipment and other agricultural freight year-round. Its Sugarcane Train hauls sugarcane from the fields to the mills during harvest season. In all, the company operates a dozen locomotives and 800 rail cars over 300 miles of track.

To monitor the progress of Engine No. 148, check out #148Homecoming and #USSugar on social media or visit USSugar.com for updates.

About U.S. Sugar

Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Clewiston, Fla., U.S. Sugar is a recognized leader in the growing and processing of sugarcane, citrus and sweet corn. Its local farmers provide 10 percent of all sugar produced in the United States, up to 90 million gallons of premium Florida orange juice and half of Florida’s sweet corn crop.

Who Will Buy Florida East Coast Railway???

As we recently reported, Fortress Investment Group LLC is considering a sale of Florida East Coast Railway (FECR). As well as having been completely modernized (motive power, etc), the roadbed has been upgraded to accomodate Brightline passenger trains (still owned by Fortress).

Candidates I have heard about are CSX, NS and Genesee & Wyoming. CSX owns trackage that competes against Florida East Coast, but it is not as high quality as FECR. NS owns nothing South of Jacksonville (Northern terminus of FEC). Genesee & Wyoming is not a participant in the Florida race.

FECR has exclusive access to the top two container seaports in the state of Florida, perceived competitive advantages may block any deal for Class I’s.

Fortress has an investment valued at around $3.5 billion. But the sale of FECR does not include real estate, logistics and telecommunications assets. It is unclear as to the portion of valuation specifically tied to FECR.

My idea: CSX buys FECR and sells much of it’s existing property (Jacksonville to Miami) to G&W or another large regional/short line company.

Fortress Exploring Sale of Florida East Coast Railway

FOrtress Investment Group is exploring a sale of Florida East Coast Railway Corp., the coastal freight operator it took private in 2007.

Asset manager Fortress is working with Barclays and Morgan Stanley to weigh options for Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Railway. The company is likely to attract interest from other private equity firms, infrastructure firms and railway operators.

The holding company of Florida East Coast Railway — Florida East Coast Industries Inc. — was taken private in 2007 by funds managed by Fortress in a transaction valued at about $3.5 billion. The fund later spun off the railway operations into a separate company, leaving real estate, logistics and telecommunications assets under the FECI umbrella.

Fortress, based in New York, had about $70.2 billion in assets under management as of June 30, according to its website. Florida East Coast Railway can trace its roots back to 1895, when industrialist Henry M. Flagler bought the Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Halifax, and Indian River railroads to create a transportation route along the state’s coastline.

Railroad tracks back in service after Hurricane Matthew

Railroad tracks in St. Augustine that were underwater during Hurricane Matthew were back in service Tuesday, according to a spokesperson with Florida East Coast Railway.

Crews went out Saturday and put more rock around the tracks and made repairs.

Some railroad signals in Flagler and Brevard counties are out because of the power outages there, and generators have been put in those locations to power the signals until power is restored.

MOVE TO A SHELTER What A Horrid Choice In A Hurricane!

A hurricane is a HORRID thing!

What should I do?

“Leadership” like governors tell me to go to a shelter.

Common sense tells me I should stay with my property.

News media just excites the situation.

“Shelters” have a bad name. Leave your belongings for 30 seconds and somebody will steal.

Stay at home COULD be dangerous.

Thank God I don’t have to make this decision!!!!!