Category Archives: Florida East Coast

BOS Group started with 1 truck. Now, it’s one of Miami’s biggest third-party logistics providers

BOS Group CEO/Founder Ozan Baran at his Allapattah warehouse in front of one of his new ‘Quickload’ trucks.

As an 18-year-old student living in Cyprus, Ozan Baran opened his first business in 1994, trucking oranges around the island nation.

“I went bankrupt,” he said. “It was a great learning experience.”

This setback did not discourage the Turkish native from getting involved in business again. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Girne American University in Cyprus, Baran moved to Miami to live with his sister. He arrived in 1999 with $600 in savings.

“I worked at Royal Caribbean and then as general manager of Pasha’s [Mediterranean] restaurants,” Baran said. “I used to drive by the Port of Miami [now PortMiami], and it made me think about the opportunities here for logistics. I saved my money, and in 2005, bought my first truck and started my company.”

Using his savings and credit, the entrepreneur bought a flatbed truck for moving shipping containers and founded BOS Transport to move freight throughout Florida. BOS represents the initials of the first name of Baran, his mother Baysan and sister Simten.

“I worked very hard — 10-12 hours every day of the week,” Baran said. Demand for reliable trucking service was high, and by providing personal attention and excellent service, his business grew with the help of word-of-mouth recommendations. A few years later, he set up a small warehouse in Hialeah, bought more trucks, and hired more employees.

Over the years, BOS Transport evolved into the BOS Group, a major third-party logistics provider based in Miami. Its divisions provide trucking, warehouse, freight, fulfillment and other services and include BOS Transport, BOS Cargo, BOS Warehouse and a popular office rental facility at the headquarters building called BOS Business Center.

Bazan’s company has grown from a single flatbed truck into an enterprise that has more than 180 employees, a large fleet of tractor-trailers, revenues of over $10 million in 2016, and 250 domestic and international clients. The company, which has siding along the Florida East Coast Railway and is next door to Miami International Airport, operates out of a 56,000 square-foot headquarters and warehouse building. To help it keep up with the demand of moving containers in and out of PortMiami and Port Everglades, BOS is building a 125,000-square-foot warehouse a few blocks away, adding new trucks, trailers and other equipment, and hiring more personnel.

“As we grew, I saw new opportunities and studied each one before investing,” he said. For instance, he noticed that many foreign firms working in international trade needed small, economical office spaces, so he converted part of his headquarters into attractive, furnished spaces that are fully booked. He plans to apply this concept in other cities.

In 2015, he launched a new division, Quickload, a fee-based platform that allows shippers and truckers to connect through an app so that vacant space on trailers can be used. Trucking companies, which often see their trucks carrying only partial cargo loads, can line up guaranteed volumes for each route, thus increasing their revenues. And companies that want to ship freight can use Quickload to find available space on trucks and negotiate their own prices.

Walking through the Allapattah warehouse packed with slabs of marble, stacks of glass sheets for condo towers, nonperishable foods and a refrigerated section filled with Danish cheese and chocolates, Baran talked about plans to expand operations in other states and in Europe.


Want to ride FEC’s Santa Train? Here’s how you can win two tickets

A South Florida-based non-profit is raffling off a chance to ride (and work) on the Florida East Coast Railway’s annual Santa Train, which will deliver toys to children at several stops between Jacksonville and Miami.

The Florida East Coast Railway Society says the train ride is a “once in a lifetime experience” for rail enthusiasts. The winners will get to ride in two of the FEC’s business cars — the St. Augustine and the Azalea — while working as one of Santa’s elves when the train stops at multiple locations during the Dec. 9 trip south from Jacksonville.

Florida East Coast Railway has been running the holiday-themed train for more than five years. Tickets are not available to the general public.Proceeds from the raffle will be benefit the FEC’s Toys for Tots campaign, the society said. Two winners will be chosen, and each winner can bring one guest.
The cost of the raffle tickets are: $25 each; 5 for $100 ($20/ea); 10 for $175 ($17.50/ea); 20 for $300 ($15/ea); and 50 for $500 ($10/ea). They can be purchased by clicking here.

Brightline derails, causing extensive damage; ‘definitive’ cause in question

A Brightline train derailed during testing earlier this year, causing more than $400,000 of damage, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The derailment occurred at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 as one of Brightline’s five passenger trains returned to the railroad’s West Palm Beach maintenance facility, according to the incident report Brightline filed with the federal agency.

The train had just finished performing signal tests, according to Brightline.

As the train entered the yard, the locomotive truck — the part of the train that supports the locomotive and provides propulsion and braking — derailed, taking two axles off the track.

Damages to the train was about $408,000; damage to the track was negligible, according to Brightline.

The $3.5 billion Miami-to-Orlando passenger railroad is to begin phase 1 service, between Miami and West Palm Beach, by the end of the year. The railroad has not set a date for phase 2 — from West Palm, through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast and on to Orlando International Airport — but service is expected to be at least several years away.

Though popular in South Florida and much of Brevard County, Brightline has faced staunch opposition and legal action from Treasure Coast governments and citizen groups, which say the railroad would endanger public safety, the environment and quality of life.

Green new Jaxport CEO

The Port of Jacksonville Port Authority Board of Directors unanimously voted to hire longtime Jaxport executive Eric Green as Chief Executive Officer. Green had served as interim CEO since March.

The Board conducted a national executive search to fill the vacant CEO position.

Green joined the port in 2005 and served previously as Senior Director, Government and External Affairs, leading the successful effort to gain authorization and funding to start the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening project. The project to take the federal shipping channel to 47 feet will begin construction in the next few months, the port stated in a release.

The port is served by CSX, Norfolk Southern and Florida East Coast Railway. It has volume of more than 1 million containers annually.

“Eric Green has demonstrated in his period of service to Jaxport, and his period as interim CEO, that he will be a great asset to this port as CEO,” said Chairman Jim Citrano.

Prior to joining the port, Green served in numerous leadership roles for the City of Jacksonville, including Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. In this position, Green managed several city departments and was instrumental in the successful development, passage and implementation of the $2 billion Better Jacksonville Plan.

Green, a Jacksonville native, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Chamber and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He is a graduate of Saint Andrews Presbyterian College and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

Railway Age

A salute to Florida’s Overseas Highway

The 1.25-mile-long Jewfish Creek Bridge in Key Largo is part of the Overseas Highway, as it passes through Key Largo. (Photo: Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau)

Even if you’ve never ventured outside of Orange County or the confines of Walt Disney World Resort, there’s still a good chance you’ve traversed Florida’s most characteristic type of roadway: the causeway.

A pancake-flat peninsula flecked with lakes and sporting the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, Florida seems a natural place for an abundance of thoroughfares that, by their most basic definition, are raised paved roads, tracks or paths — usually earthen and often man-made — across bodies of water or wetlands.

Here’s where things get a bit confusing. In Florida, the word causeway is frequently applied to thoroughfares that consist of a combination of raised roads and multiple bridges, linked by narrow strips of land or small islands. Most often, you’ll cross this type of causeway traveling from the Floridian mainland to its barrier islands. The San Carlos Bay-spanning Sanibel Causeway, the Venetian Causeway in Miami-Dade County and the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which stretches nearly 10 miles across the northern section of Tampa Bay, are just three heavily traversed examples.

And then there’s the Overseas Highway, which has 42 bridges and too many causeways to count.

While some might consider it a causeway in its entirety as it follows the familiar causeway-bridge-causeway-bridge-causeway pattern, nobody really refers to the 113-mile-long Overseas Highway as one. Carrying U.S. Route 1 through the Florida Keys from mainland Florida to its southern terminus in Key West, the so-called “Highway That Goes to the Sea” is the grand dame of scenic drives, the prettiest place in the world to be stuck in bottleneck traffic and the most transcendent stretch of pavement in the Lower 48. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Alongside such fabled roads including Natchez Trace Parkway and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the historic Overseas Highway is one of a select few National Scenic Byways designated as an All-American Road. It’s among the best of the best, the most scenic of scenic drives.

It’s also arguably one of the more surreal All-American roads. On a clear day, driving southbound on the Overseas Highway is akin to gliding above the open ocean into infinity. Just imagine being sandwiched between blue skies and turquoise waters that stretch forever as you charge toward what feels like the end of the Earth (or, in reality, the southernmost point in the contiguous United States). A drive on the Overseas Highway makes anything seem possible.

But as evidenced before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Overseas Highway isn’t just an otherworldly artery that enables motorists to island-hop through a tropical wonderland like a real-life magic carpet ride, to which it’s often compared. It also functions as an asphalt lifeline, the only road in and out of the Florida Keys, an archipelago or roughly 1,700 coral and limestone islands. Without the Overseas Highway, the islands and the 70,000-some people who call a small number of them home would be severed from the mainland save for transport by water or by air. It was along the Overseas Highway that a mandatory mass evacuation was carried out ahead of Irma and, days later, residents and business owners slowly trickled back to assess the devastation.

Now that debris has been cleared from its causeways and its bridges have been deemed structurally sound and safe for travel, it’s clear that the Overseas Highway has weathered the storm. The Keys, however, have weeks, months, even years of recovery ahead.

As a tribute to the Florida Keys and its beloved scenic byway, here’s the fascinating story of a shining — and incredibly fun to drive on — testament to American ingenuity. Let’s hope that visitors who have never experienced this preternaturally beautiful slice of paradise will be able to make that storied drive someday soon.

A tropical paradise that you can drive to: Photographed in 1961, marking the start of the southernmost stretch of U.S. Highway 1, which begins near the Canadian border in Fort Kent, Maine. (Photo: Florida Keys–Public Libraries/flickr)
The Storm of the (early 20th) Century
It was a hurricane of all things that gave way to the creation of the Overseas Highway.

While individual segments of the “original” highway date to the mid-1920s with the construction of State Route 4A, the present day Overseas Highway didn’t come about until the late 1930s following the catastrophic Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, which, to this day, remains the strongest most intense hurricane to make landfall in the United States.

The storm claimed over 400 lives, including a large number of World War I veterans and their families who were living at three Federal Emergency Relief Administration-operated veteran work camps located on the Florida Keys.

The job at hand for the vets? To construct a complete and continuous modern highway from the mainland to Key West that would help alleviate pressure on a struggling, sluggish ferry service. The idea was that the new toll roads would eventually render the ferry system obsolete.

In the early years, the Overseas Highway (pictured here in 1940) consisted of winding dirt roads and rickety wooden bridges. Although scenic, it was more white-knuckle than anything. (Photo: Florida Keys–Public Libraries/flickr)
Writes Jerry Wilkinson in a “History of the Overseas Highway”:

The ferry service was barely adequate. It had a limited capacity, was slow, unreliable, inconvenient and relatively expensive for the service it provided. Often they would run aground, or be delayed due to low tides and shallow water. One ferry captain commented that there was not quite enough water for swimming and too much for farming. Key West was not satisfied. Plans were begun to bridge the water gaps for vehicular traffic to eliminate the ferries.
On Sept. 2, 1935, the mother of all hurricanes hit the Keys. Nearly all work completed or nearly completed to transform State Route 4A into a continuous, non-segmented highway was destroyed. Just off of Lower Matecumbe Key, near mile marker 73, is a small island that was dredged as part of a never-realized bridge that was under construction when the storm hit. The island is now known as Veteran’s Key. In addition to the island, the unfinished bridge’s eight piers remain as a haunting memorial to the veterans who lost their lives in the storm.
Best known as the Overseas Railroad, the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway put the Keys, long accessible only by water, on the map. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
When life gives you defunct railway lines …
In addition to wiping out much of old State Route 4A, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 also heavily damaged the one reliable mode of transport in and out of the Keys: the Overseas Railroad.

An extension of the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), the Overseas Railroad was completed in 1912 and, unlike any existing roads, stretched all the way from mainland Florida to Key West, the state’s most populous city at the time. A hugely complex and expensive undertaking that many critics believed to be impossible to complete, work began on the Overseas Railroad in 1905 as the pet project of Henry Flagler, a Gilded Age oilman-turned-resort developer. Hailing from New York, Flagler was instrumental in transforming the east coast of Florida into the vacation destination that it is today.

Although popular during its relatively short lifespan, the Overseas Railroad was ultimately written into history as an ill-fated marvel of early 20th century engineering that, in the end, succumbed to Mother Nature. Following the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the financially trouble FEC decided not to rebuild damaged and wholly destroyed sections of the line, leaving the Keys, once again, accessible only by boat.

Following the shuttering of the Overseas Railway, the state of Florida saw a rare opportunity. Although its railbeds were damaged beyond repair by the hurricane, the railway’s most crucial infrastructure, including its bridges and formidable arch viaducts, survived the storm largely intact. And so the state purchased the railroad’s right of way from the FEC for a sum of $640,000 and embarked on an ambitious rail-to-road conversion project that would, at long last, link the disconnected sections of State Route 4A to form a complete highway.
A 1928 photograph of Florida’s Overseas Railroad, which was ultimately replaced with the Overseas Highway in the late 1930s. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Work retrofitting the old railway bridges — most notably, the iconic and still-standing Bahia Honda Rail Bridge that links Bahia Honda Key with Spanish Harbor Key — into automobile bridges in the Middle Keys wrapped up in 1938. That year, the now-continuous highway was rechristened as the southernmost stretch of U.S. Route 1. The first incarnation of the current Overseas Highway was officially born.

As Wilkinson writes in his “History of the Overseas Highway”: “The Gibraltar of the South [Key West] had a usable vehicle artery to and from the mainland.”

Improvements and modifications on the Overseas Highway, which still incorporated large segments of old State Route 4A, continued through the first half of the 20th century. This work, particularly in the Upper and Lower Keys, picked up steam during World War II when the U.S. Navy, which maintained an air station on Boca Chica Key near Key West, concluded that the existing highway — filled with “many wooden bridges and sharp turns,” to quote Wilkinson — was inadequate for its needs. And so, existing bridges were upgraded and routes were reconfigured as part of an extensive overhaul that, in lieu of building roads atop just part of the old railway, incorporated the FEC right of way in its entirety.

On July 2, 1944, the Overseas Highway was dedicated (again) in a ceremony that Wilkinson notes was “much larger” than when it opened in 1938.

Wider roads, bigger bridges
As Key West-bound sun-worshippers descended on the once-sleepy Florida Keys in even greater numbers during the latter half of the 20th century, work on improving the Overseas Highway to accommodate an increase in motor traffic began in earnest. With a focus on lane expansion projects, Wilkinson refers to the highway from 1944 though 1978 as being in an “almost continuous maintenance period.” Another noteworthy event from this period came in April 1954 when tolls — $1 per vehicle and driver plus a quarter for each additional passenger — for traveling on the highway were banished following a “scandal over inappropriate revenue use.”

From 1978 though the early 1980s, the Overseas Highway entered a period of dramatic reinvention when 37 bridges, most of them old FEC railway bridges dating back to the early 1900s, were replaced with wider, stronger and heavier spans built specifically for automobile traffic. After years of service, the retrofitted rail bridges, many of them in rather rough condition, were retired.

In 1982, the bridge that’s now considered the crown jewel of the Overseas Highway, the Seven Mile Bridge, opened to traffic. Crossing Moser Channel to connect Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys to Knight’s Key, part of the city of Marathon in the Middle Keys, this $45 million prestressed concrete box-girder span was considered a feat of engineering and among the world’s longest bridges when completed. (Technically, it’s just shy of seven miles: 35,862 feet or 6.79 miles.)
As is the case with several other modern vehicular bridges along the Overseas Highway, the old Seven Mile Bridge Seven Mile Bridge — completed in 1912 as part of the Overseas Railroad and retrofitted in the late 1930s to accommodate automobiles — still stands alongside it. After the new bridge opened to traffic, a 2.2-mile-long section of the old bridge spanning from Knight’s Key to Pigeon Key remained open as a popular fishing pier and wildly popular sunset-watching spot accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

The bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was closed inits entirety in July 2016 as part of a $77 million restoration scheme. It’s due to remain closed until 2021 when it reopens as one of the country’s most spectacular linear parks. (Also in the works for those who would rather hike or bike, not drive, across the archipelago is the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, a 106-mile paved path set along the old Overseas Railroad route that, when completed, will stretch from Key Largo to Key West as the southernmost section of the East Coast Greenway.)

It’s unclear how the raggedy but beloved old Seven Mile Bridge fared during Hurricane Irma but as Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation, relayed to the Florida Rambler in 2013: “The new bridge will go down before the old one does. It’s been there for 100 years; it was made to last. The new one was just built by the lowest bidder.”

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma, only emergency vehicles were allowed to access the Overseas Highway, a heavily traveled National Scenic Byway. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The road to recovery
On Sept. 13, three days after Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key, the Miami Herald reported that all 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway had been inspected by authorities and were deemed safe for travel. Causeways that had flooded or been washed away during the storm were also deemed passable. Still, only the less-harder-hit Upper Keys were open to anxious returning residents and business owners as large swaths of the Lower and Middle Keys remained without electricity or cell phone service.

On Sept. 18, the Herald reported that the Overseas Highway, including parts of the road south of the Seven Mile Bridge, had reopened in its entirety to vehicular traffic. Neighborhoods in more devastated areas remain off limits indefinitely. Highway access aside, the Keys — from mile marker 107 in Key Largo to mile marker 0 in Key West — will remain temporarily closed to tourists as recovery efforts and repairs to infrastructure continue.


Mother Nature Network

FL freight networks resume operations post-Irma

Airports, sea ports and rail operations in Florida mostly returned to normalcy Wednesday following a devastating strike by Hurricane Irma earlier this week.

Florida’s main sea ports began to reopen Tuesday. Port Everglades reopened fully, but PortMiami, JAXPORT and Port of Tampa opened with restrictions. Most gates and terminals are open for truck and cargo operations, but the size of vessels allowed to call may be limited.

The devastating 1935 hurricane that surprised the Florida Keys

It was Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1935, when the nation’s first-recorded Category 5 hurricane struck the Florida Keys. The winds: between 200 and 250 miles per hour. The storm surge: 15 feet high. Thirty miles of a railroad track connecting a portion of the archipelago was decimated. Hundreds died, including more than 200 World War I veterans working on an overseas highway linking the Keys.

When survivors and rescue workers surveyed the damage, they were horrified by what they saw: people buried or partially entombed in muck and mangroves, bodies dangling off trees. One family reportedly lost 50 members.

With Irma headed toward South Florida, officials in the Keys — a series of islands set off the southern coast — have ordered mandatory evacuations. Hotels are shutting down, the airport was expected to halt operations, and residents and tourists began their trek along the single highway back to the mainland.

But the fear in the Keys isn’t just a matter of geography: Back in the late summer of 1935, when the country’s weather forecasters didn’t have satellite technology, some residents and government officials in the Keys were taken by surprise by the viciousness of the hurricane. It has haunted residents ever since.

Tri-Rail expansion along Miami coast is halted for now over who would run the train

A state agency has halted a study needed for Tri-Rail to launch a northeast commuter line running between Miami and Aventura as local officials await a decision on who would run the trains.

The long-sought “Northeast” commuter route would run on tracks being installed for the Brightline railway that’s slated to launch service between West Palm Beach and Miami by the end of 2017. Miami-Dade had planned to subsidize Tri-Rail operating on the same tracks but serving more local stops, including Aventura and North Miami Beach.

That strategy ran into trouble recently when Brightline, a for-profit company, told Miami-Dade it might want to operate the commuter line itself, said Alice Bravo, the county’s transportation director.

She has been negotiating with Brightline and its corporate parent, Florida East Coast Industries, about how much the company would charge for Tri-Rail to use the passenger tracks installed to launch a passenger railway that’s eventually supposed to link Miami with Orlando.

Read more here from Miami Herald:

Construction on Brightline’s apartment tower tops out

Rendering shows new real estate development called Park-Line, owned by Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company,Wednesday July 12, 2017, in West Palm Beach.The rental apartments are being built next to Brightline’s stations in downtown West Palm Beach and Miami. The 24-floor Park-Line tower in West Palm Beach will have 290 units. Rental rates have not been released.(Photo by Florida East Coast Industries)

West Palm Beach —
Construction on the 24-story residential tower rising next to Brightline’s station in downtown West Palm Beach has reached its top elevation, marking a new milestone for the project, which is slated to open next year and is designed to appeal to commuters looking for easy access to the company’s soon-to-launch passenger trains.

Brightline’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, on Thursday celebrated the “topping out” of the Park-Line apartment tower, a ceremonial event to commemorate the end of its vertical construction.

The 290-unit building is located just west of the Brightline station, and within walking distance of both Clematis Street and CityPlace. Its proximity to the train tracks also gives tenants a direct link to Brightline’s trains, which are expected to begin service between West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami in the coming months.

South Florida commuters have become a key demographic for the rail project. Brightline plans to link Miami and Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, offering an alternative to millions of tourists who make the trip by car.

But construction on the line between West Palm Beach and Orlando has yet to begin, and officials have said it will be at least 2020 before the company’s trains start running between south and the Orlando Airport in central Florida. The delay means commuters and others — particularly those living and working in its buildings — looking to transit between West Palm Beach and Miami will be the line’s primary customers.

Palm Beach Post

Florida East Coast Railway recognized for service quality

Florida East Coast Railway outranked other rail-intermodal service providers for outstanding performance in Logistic Management’s annual Quest for Quality survey, the railroad announced earlier this month.

The Quest for Quality poll examines key criteria used when evaluating and using transportation and logistics service providers. The survey then ranks the providers based on evaluation and purchase criteria, according to a press release issued by the railroad.

The survey received more than 5,400 responses from top freight decision-makers.

“We believe that customers are the lifeblood of our business, so we are absolutely thrilled to have them recognize our efforts,” said Jim Hertwig, president and chief executive officer of Florida East Coast Railway.

The Quest for Quality recognition will be awarded Sept. 26 at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ annual conference in Atlanta.

PR Rail News