Category Archives: Florida East Coast

All Aboard Florida could start Treasure Coast, Space Coast construction as soon as next month

All Aboard Florida said on Friday it will begin construction north of West Palm Beach early next year.

The announcement follows two important financial developments.

First, the railroad on Friday won approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to proceed with its application for a $1.6 billion federal loan.

The DOT approval, known as a record of decision, signifies that All Aboard Florida’s proposal for Phase 2 passenger rail service, between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport, complies with the National Environmental Policy Act, an idea that Treasure Coast governments have long disputed.

All Aboard Florida officials on Friday said the railroad now has all the federal environmental approvals it needs to begin Phase 2 construction through the Treasure and Space coasts.

“This is the most critical and final step in the extension of Brightline’s service to Orlando, and we are excited to move forward with Phase 2,” Dave Howard, Brightline CEO, said in a news release.

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Hollywood a Possible Neighborhood Center for Planned Tri-Rail Coastal Link

Hollywood Gazette

Patti Morin wants to be able to travel more throughout South Florida. But she is concerned about the growing amount of traffic and the difficulty of traveling by car in the region.

“We need more public transportation in this area,” said Morin.

“The congestion on I-95 is getting worse,” noted Achim Nowak “It is becoming harder for people to use their cars. I think a new train station would be wonderful for Hollywood.”

Morin and Nowak were among the local residents, business owners and community stakeholders participating in the Tri-Rail Coastal Link Station Area Master Plan Community Planning Session on Saturday, December 2, at the Fred Lippman Multi-Purpose Center in Hollywood. The planned service, designed to be a major commuter railroad for the east coast of Florida from Miami to Jupiter, would operate on the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) track on Dixie Highway (Tri-Rail and other passenger trains now use the CSX tracks which run near I-95). Hollywood leaders are working closely with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, planning and zoning officials and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority to make it happen. A Hollywood station would be a strategic stop between the major hubs of Aventura and Fort Lauderdale. The train station would be at the center of a larger community that would include business and housing development. Public sentiment at the meeting was leaning toward a downtown location near the Lippman Center.

Dana Little, urban design director for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, said the meeting offered people an opportunity to create their desired train stations for the service’s master plan. Working together in groups, they presented recommendations including more green space, housing and business projects and efforts to improve the area. They want a new train station and updated development to surround it. Most of those who participated believe there is a need for more effective public transportation and an effort to encourage more people to walk or cycle in Hollywood.

The planned Tri-Rail Coastal Link service on the FEC railway is a strategic investment for South Florida and could help in the economic development of the region. The Coastal Link will generate an extensive range of benefits that go beyond the direct impact of any individual project, including spurring economic development, creating jobs, improving regional access and mobility and providing opportunities for transit-oriented development. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the Florida Department Transportation Council and the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils are working together to develop the Coastal Link service.

More information is available at http://tri-railcoastallink.com

All Aboard Florida receives $2B of bids for tax-free bonds

Read the full Wall Street Journal story here.

All Aboard Florida last week appeared to have raised the $600 million it sought to finance part of its passenger railroad, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The company received $2 billion in bids for the $600 million in private-activity bonds it was selling, leading to prices “a little better than we thought,” Wes Edens, chairman of Fortress Investment Group, All Aboard Florida’s parent company, told the Journal.

Brightline has said it plans to begin limited passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach this month, with service between West Palm and Miami beginning early next year.

Full service through the Treasure Coast, which largely has opposed the project, and on to Orlando International Airport is still several years away, according to Brightline.

It’s that time of year… Florida East Coast Railway Christmas Train is coming to town

Santa is coming to visit good boys and girls this week when Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway’s eighth annual Christmas Train comes to town on Saturday, December 9th.

The FEC Christmas Train is run in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation and travels from Jacksonville to Miami along FEC Railway’s 351-mile mainline track.

Along the way, Santa Claus will be spreading holiday cheer from the decorated, historic FEC passenger cars. US Marine Corps service members will be at each stop along the route to greet Santa and his FEC elves. Santa will de-board at each stop so children can tell him what they’d like for Christmas. It is a beloved tradition among FEC employees, their families, customers, suppliers and the communities in which they serve.

“We are proud to be able to once again work alongside the Marine Corps and the Toys for Tots Foundation to contribute to those in need during the holiday season,” said Jim Hertwig, FEC President and CEO.

“Since we started the program seven years ago, we have donated close to 300,000 toys for distribution throughout the community, and it only continues to grow,” he continued.

The FEC Christmas Train is a 501c3, so anyone who would like to make a donation to the organization can receive a tax deduction. All donations will go toward children and teens in need in the local community.

Santa and his merry train will make eight stops at the railroad crossings listed below for approximately 20 minutes, 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 Dixon Boulevard – 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 (FEC) Railway 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. FEC Railway connects to the national railway system in Jacksonville, Fla., to move cargo originating or terminating there. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., FEC Railway provides end-to-end intermodal and carload solutions to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality.

Flexibility is the key to survival in a rapidly-changing world

International Railway Journal

THE quest to reduce the emission of greenhouse and noxious gases from diesel engines appears to have taken on a new sense of urgency judging by the recent flurry of announcements about pilot projects for alternative-fuelled trains and contracts for the supply of trains with innovative traction systems. Such developments are vital if rail is to maintain its environmental competitive edge over other modes.

Renfe in Spain will begin pilot tests this month of a two-car passenger train powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) in what it says are the first such trials in Europe. A CAF train is being used for the tests, in which one of its two diesel engines has been replaced by an LNG powered engine, with the remaining diesel used as a comparator.
Researchers expect to identify the technical requirements for LNG traction during the trials, which will offer a clearer idea of the environmental implications and the potential use of LNG on non-electrified lines.

In Germany, Lower Saxony Transport Authority (LNVG) signed a contract with Alstom and gas supplier Linde Group on November 9 for 14 Coradia iLint hydrogen fuel multiple units – the first order for iLint, following its debut at InnoTrans last year. Linde will install dedicated hydrogen refuelling facilities for the trains, which will have a range of 1000km on a single tank of hydrogen.

Meanwhile, the EcoTrain project led by German Rail (DB) is harnessing lithium-ion battery technology as an alternative to diesel operation, while last year, eight German railway associations called for further development of new traction systems such as batteries, fuel cells and hybrid systems.

In addition, Ballard Power Systems has signed an agreement with Siemens to develop a 200kW fuel cell engine for Siemens’ Mireo multiple unit, with the first main line trials planned for 2021. Siemens Mobility CEO Mrs Sabrina Soussa described the deal as “a decisive step towards replacing diesel-powered rail vehicles with emission-free vehicles.”

Ballard is also working with CRRC Tangshan, China, on a hydrogen-powered LRV and trials began on a 14km light rail line in Tangshan in October.

In the Netherlands, Arriva has signed a contract with Stadler for 18 Wink multiple units, which will initially operate on biodiesel. The trains will have engines designed to use hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), with provision for conversion to battery and overhead electric operation.

But it is not only rail which is developing new types of traction. A new potential threat to rail comes from Tesla. Mr Elon Musk, its founder and chief executive, unveiled the company’s first electric lorry, the Semi, in Los Angeles on November 17. Musk claims the overall cost of ownership for the Semi will be 12% less per kilometre than for diesel vehicles. The Semi will be able to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 20 seconds with a payload of 36 tonnes compared with around 1 minute for a diesel lorry, and it will climb 5% gradients at 105km/h compared with about 70km/h for a diesel. Tesla says the Semi will be able to regenerate 98% of kinetic energy to the battery. The Semi will have a range of 800km, and Tesla says it plans to introduce rapid dc chargers that will produce a 640km charge in 30 minutes.

The Semi will have an enhanced autopilot as well as automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping, lane departure warning, and event recording. But Musk’s most important claim is that several Semis will be able to autonomously follow a lead Semi as a convoy which he says would make it cheaper to send freight by road rather than rail.

While electric trains have better performance than diesel trains, if the Semi becomes a commercial reality and lives up to expectations, it could make life more difficult for rail freight operators wedded to diesel traction such as those in North America.

Nevertheless, one US railway has just made the switch from diesel to LNG. Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) has become the first North American railway to adopt LNG for its entire mainline locomotive fleet following the modification of its fleet of 24 GE locomotives, which operate in pairs with a purpose-built fuel tender.

LNG has been tested as a locomotive fuel for 25 years in North America and is still under evaluation by several Class 1 railways including BNSF. FECR has switched from diesel to LNG because its mainline locomotive fleet is captive to the Jacksonville – Miami main line, and it has access to a ready source of LNG.

While adopting LNG would enable railways to move away from their polluting diesels, it is not the game changer that electric traction can offer in terms of tractive effort and efficiency. And an electrified railway can be powered by any fuel which makes it ideally placed to withstand future changes in fuel availability.

India’s railway minister, Mr Piyush Goyal, made a bold announcement on November 21 that Indian Railways will phase out mainline diesel locomotives within five years in favour of electric traction. While laudable, this appears unrealistic as only around one third of the 62,600km network is electrified and GE won a contract to build 1000 diesel locomotives just a year ago.

Electrification coupled with other innovations such as last-mile diesel-equipped electric locomotives, EMUs with batteries to take them beyond the wires, and dual-mode trains, demonstrate the increasing operational flexibility which is now available and will be one of the keys to success in the future.

Marco Rubio Showcases Port Everglades’ Expansion

Sunshine States News

Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., toured Port Everglades as that port continues its expansion efforts.

Currently Port Everglades is tackling various aspects of its expansion plans which its backers insist will create 7,000 jobs and support around 135,000 jobs across the state. The expansion includes adding five berths, tying rail to the port and widening and deepening the channel by 50 feet.

So far, the Florida East Coast Railway has completed its Intermodal Container Transfer Facility to expand rail operations. The five new berths and deepening and widening the channels are currently in the design stage.

Rubio toured the port on Wednesday and stressed the important role it plays in South Florida’s economy.

“Port Everglades is a hub of international trade and travel, and an economic powerhouse for South Florida,” Rubio said. “It was great to hear about the progress being made to ensure that the infrastructure at Port Everglades is able to continue to keep pace with the increasing size of modern transoceanic ships. I will continue to advocate for the modernization of Florida’s port infrastructure, including at Port Everglades which is linked to $28 billion in annual economic activity and more than 200,000 jobs.”

In the meantime, earlier this month, Port Everglades celebrated a new record for containerized cargo volumes with the port handling 1,076,893 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs ) in its 2017 fiscal year which closed at the end of September. That cargo total is up 4 percent from last year and is 1.5 percent higher than the record set in 2015.

Port Everglades also saw the total of cruise and ferry passengers increase to almost 3.9 million passengers, an increase of 1 percent in the closed fiscal year. The port also saw an increase of 1 percent in the amount of petroleum barrels move through it during that period

Steve Cernak, the chief executive and port director of Port Everglades, weighed in why the port was seeing increased traffic on several fronts.

“The volumes of refrigerated produce coming into Florida through Port Everglades from Central America is significant,” Cernak said. “It represents more than half of all perishable cargo that arrives in Florida by ocean.

“Apparel, tile and beverages also rank among our top commodities,” Cernak added. “Notably, we are seeing growth in machinery and automobile parts as the number of vehicles being shipped in and out of the port also increases.”

Even as operating revenue remains steady, the port impacts more than 220,000 jobs across the state. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief highlighted the important role the port played in the region’s economy earlier this month.

“Port Everglades is an economic generator for Broward County and Florida that delivers financial stability and jobs in our community,” Sharief said. “This record year is a positive indication of Broward’s commitment to the businesses that choose to locate here.”

Require Brightline to pay rail-crossing costs? You betcha!

TCPALM.COM

Some Florida lawmakers have set their sights, again, on regulating the Brightline passenger rail project.

Of course, the proposed Miami-to-Orlando rail line isn’t singled out by name in bills filed for the upcoming legislative session. But it’s clear, given the geographic proximity of the bills’ authors to the rail project, Brightline is foremost in their minds.

Brightline (formerly known as All Aboard Florida) is scheduled to begin passenger rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach by the end of the year, with full service to Orlando International Airport still several years away.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, has refiled a bill that sputtered and died during last spring’s legislative session. Among other things, Senate Bill 572 — also known as the “High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act” — would give the Florida Department of Transportation authority to modify certain aspects of any passenger rail service in the state and impose penalties for violations.

It also would strengthen public-disclosure policies and give local governments a greater voice in decisions about installing fencing along rail corridors.

From the perspective of Treasure Coast residents opposed to Brightline, there is a lot to like about Mayfield’s bill. But its prospects for passage are virtually nil.

The Federal Railway Safety Act, passed by Congress in 1970, established the regulatory framework for freight and passenger railroads. With limited exceptions, federal law supersedes, or preempts, state and local efforts to regulate railroads.

Historically, rail companies have tended to prevail in court when challenging states’ attempts to regulate their operations.

Florida NIMBYs Can’t Stop America’s First Private High-Speed Rail

Inside a massive West Palm Beach garage, sleek yellow and silver train cars outfitted with high-tech controls and plush leather seats sit and wait. Manufactured by Siemens in a new California plant and owned by All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of one of Florida’s oldest real estate, infrastructure and rail companies, the train doesn’t look like anything the United States has seen before. It isn’t. When the custom-built, high-speed “Brightline” coaches start running later this year, they will be the nation’s first privately run trains in more than 30 years — and the first ever in a new generation of fast, privately operated U.S. rail.

All Aboard Florida’s $3 billion Brightline express train is a bet on a denser, more connected and less car-addicted Florida — and a bet on a growing international industry that the U.S. has long lagged behind on: private high-speed rail. It will provide the first direct transit connection between downtown Miami and the region’s other two largest cities, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach (Tri-Rail stops at the Miami Airport), since the 1960s. In a part of South Florida that has long been the Sunshine State’s densest corridor with more than 6 million residents and a seasonal flow of tourists, the new rail service promises to cut commutes between Miami and West Palm by an hour or more. Brightline supporters say the train could take as many as 3 million cars off the road.

The rail could be a game-changer for transportation in the region and is already reshaping the urban landscape along its planned 240-mile route. Beyond shortening commutes and simplifying travel, it promises to drive hundreds of millions of dollars in new developments with sleek high-rise condo, shopping, dining and office destinations rising next to each Brightline station. And despite years of opposition by wealthy suburbanites, the passenger train is expected to connect to Florida’s very biggest tourist destination, Orlando, by 2020, transforming an arduous trip from Miami into a fast three-hour jump.

With a similar private rail project underway in Texas and another public high-speed commuter rail project moving forward in California, Brightline is a first test for a long-awaited U.S. foray into high-speed rail, and in particular, a case study in how to defeat a highly motivated and very deep-pocketed group of NIMBY opponents.

“On a national level, the scale of impact could be enormous. It’s a proof of concept for private financing corridor-based infrastructure,” says Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. “There is major back-to-the-future element of this project too. Transit systems, most notably in Europe and America in the 19th century, were often developed by land holding companies and that is what is happening in Florida right now. And there is a major argument to be made that if you want to get more private financing into infrastructure markets, that’s the way to do it.”

A BET ON TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT
Brightline was born in the ashes of President Barack Obama’s stymied attempt to build a national high-speed rail network — a lower-emission, higher-tech rival to the interstate highway system. Obama put $8 billion in federal stimulus funding behind his vision, hoping to give states the incentive to compete for federal transportation grants that would seed the system. That didn’t work, and in 2011, after Florida Governor Rick Scott killed plans for a public high-speed rail connector, All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), stepped up.

Since the late 1800s, FECI has owned the region’s eastmost train tracks, on which it ran freight and passenger trains. From the train stations along Florida’s Atlantic Coast sprung West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and smaller towns between. The last passenger train ran along its tracks in the 1960s. With attention focused on state plans for a publicly operated rail corridor running from Tampa to Orlando, FECI launched a feasibility study for running fast trains along its fallow tracks to the south. With the public project dead, the state was able to approve some public support for the project, including the company’s right to sell $1.75 billion in municipal, tax-free bonds. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have additionally set aside more than $12 million for upgrading rail crossings.

In addition to the bond revenue, All Aboard Florida plans to invest about $700 million in equity into the project and generate about $300 million annually in ticket sales. FECI hopes its initial investment will return revenue generated by real estate development around the stations. With a strategy modeled on profitable private high-speed-rail projects in Japan, the company is building more than 800 high-priced rentals at its Miami station and 290 in West Palm, along with skyscrapers that will be rented out for shops and offices. The company plans to begin leasing its luxury apartments in 2018. (Much to the chagrin of affordable housing advocates concerned about the gentrification displacing renters from increasingly high-rent Miami neighborhoods, there are no plans for affordable housing as part of the development.)

For the cities hosting Brightline stations, the privately run infrastructure is coming at an opportune time. After taking a massive hit in the housing market crash and facing up to a new reality of rising sea levels and increasingly harsh — and costly — hurricane seasons, South Florida isn’t eager to take on the huge expense of building and maintaining new transit infrastructure.

In July, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez made headlines when he referred to trains as “19th-century technology” as a means to explain his decision to walk back a campaign promise for more light rail in the city and pitch a new plan for express rapid bus service instead. The pivot, he said, came down to money. Miami-Dade can’t afford to build new rail lines, let alone operate them. “I’m not abandoning anything. I’m just telling you what is the art of the possible,” Giménez​ told the Miami Herald editorial board. “If additional resources come our way, more things may be possible. This is what we can do, with what we have today.”

Yet he has not veered in his support for Brightline, offering public subsidies with the argument that the investment will be earned back through increased real estate and sales tax revenue. “As Miami-Dade County’s population and visitorship continue to grow, we must partner with the private sector to deliver services, such as transportation, to sustain this anticipated growth,” Giménez​ said in 2014. “All Aboard Florida is one of the best examples of public-private partnership that will help generate new tourism and business opportunities.”

Other mayors in the region agree on the ROI. “We’re already seeing more businesses coming up from Fort Lauderdale because West Palm Beach has all the culture and opportunities without the hassle of a bigger city,” West Palm Mayor Jeri Muoio told the Wall Street Journal in June. “I think we’ll soon see expansion from south of us as a result. This could be a real economic driver.”

Brookings’ Tomer says the two mayors have every reason to be optimistic. “This is an incredibly important project for Florida in particular Southeastern Florida because they are in desperate need of new mobility options that are competitive with automobiles,” he says. “They are out of space and they need to start building up, assuming they can keep the water at bay. This can be a powerful tool to start them on a different path for travel, improve mobility and help connect the region’s economic anchors — Orlando and Disney, Downtown Miami and the airport and the beach — and keep them competitive.”

Brightline has nearly finished building its South Florida stations and tracks and the Orlando tracks will be laid in 2018, says Brightline CEO Dave Howard. Meanwhile in Orlando, a $211 million train station, paid for by the state, is set to open next year at the city’s airport. The station will serve local buses, with hopes of eventually becoming a stop for the region’s commuter rail and Brightline.

A MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR NIMBY BATTLE
Many Florida politicians may be on board for Brightline, but for the small, scenic towns lining the affluent Treasure Coast, the prospect of some 32 trains per day rushing across their quiet streets has provoked nothing short of outrage.

Since 2014, two Treasure Coast counties have dedicated more than $6 million in taxpayer money fighting Brightline in court. Local anti-rail groups have also raised more than $1 million to pressure politicians and wage an ugly PR war against All Aboard Florida.

Brightline’s opponents have a long list of complaints. They say the train will kill pedestrians, crash into drivers, delay ambulances, delay police cars, delay fire trucks, delay daily commuters, delay boaters, suffocate the boating industry, blow horns too loud, waste taxpayer money, waste private investor money, pollute the environment, bring down property values, endanger President Donald Trump, and help line Trump’s pockets.

Indian River and Martin counties have fought rail expansion in courts and in the Florida legislature since 2015, allocating more than $6 million on legal appeals. But the counties’ lawsuits have been either tossed or dropped. Meanwhile, state lawmakers this spring killed a bill that would have singled out Brightline for regulation.

Brightline’s $600 million of bonds approved by Florida Development Finance Corp.

Brightline has been issued $600 million in tax-free bonds to pay for Phase 1 of its passenger railroad — between Miami and West Palm Beach — according to the Florida Development Finance Corp.

The finance corporation, which will issue the bonds, made its decision at a board meeting Friday. It’s the second time the agency has issued bonds to the Miami-to-Orlando railroad.

In 2015, the finance corporation issued Brightline $1.75 billion of private-activity bonds, but the company failed to sell them, and last year canceled that request.

Instead, Brightline said, it would seek the tax-exempt financing in two phases. It immediately requested $600 million for Phase 1 and said it likely would separately request $1.15 billion for Phase 2, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, said former All Aboard Florida and Brightline President Michael Reininger.

Bill Spivey, executive director of the state agency, said issuing bonds to All Aboard Florida is in line with the finance corporation’s mission “to promote the financing of projects for Florida business activities between the public and private sectors.”

Brightline first sought private-activity bonds in 2014 as a supplement or replacement to its original financing plan: a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Citizen opposition group CARE FL on Monday criticized All Aboard Florida’s plan to use government-backed financing.

FECR, building products firm plan warehouse in Fort Lauderdale

Business Journals

A building products distribution warehouse could be developed along the Florida East Coast Railway in Fort Lauderdale.

On Oct. 24, the city’s Development Review Committee will consider the application by landowner Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) and tenant G. Proulx Building Products for the 6.55-acre site at 3125 S. Andrews Ave. The site, which currently has a concrete slab, is just west of Port Everglades.

The plan calls for a 90,000-square-foot warehousing and 118 parking spaces. The estimated cost is $3 million, according to the application.

Attorney Benjamin Hedrick, of Akerman in Miami, said G. Proulx Building Products wants to consolidate its facilities in Dania Beach, Hollywood and Davie into a single location. The company receives building materials by train, does light assembling and cutting to meet the specifications of clients, and then ships them to clients by truck.

If this project is approved, FECR would build a spur from its railway onto the property so G. Proulx Building Products could directly receive deliveries.

“The proximity to railroad is really what is key for this tenant,” Hedrick said.

Planning engineer Charles O. Buckalew designed the project for the developers