BREVARD COUNTY — Drivers who frequent State Road 528 have probably noticed the increase in construction along the expressway, as Virgin Trains USA works to build tracks connecting Orlando International Airport Terminal C to Miami.
The 170-mile extension is expected to be completed by 2022, or early 2023, and the privately funded, high-speed train will be capable of carrying up to 260 passengers from Orlando to Miami (and vice versa) in three hours.
During a Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 8, Virgin Trains USA Public Affairs Manager Katie Mitzner gave a presentation to the public on what to expect during construction along SR-528.
Virgin Trains USA, which has entered a partnership with Brightline, will begin its rebranding effort by the second or third quarter of the year, according to Ms. Mitzner. It currently operates under Brightline from Miami to West Palm Beach.
While a stop in Brevard County has yet to be announced, Ms. Mitzner said two stations will be built along the extension within the next five years. It is not guaranteed that Brevard will receive a station, however, Virgin Trains had previously announced plans to add stations every 50-to 60-miles from West Palm Beach; one of which will be on the Treasure Coast.
As of this month, construction between Orlando and Cocoa is 90% complete with 35 miles cleared. Plans to lay track near the airport have already begun.
By extending the rail from Orlando to West Palm Beach, Virgin Trains expects to see three millions cars removed from the road annually.
Additionally, two tunnels under S.R. 528 will be constructed in the future, as will grade crossing work at 49 crossings in Brevard plan to be updated to create safer crossing zones.
A $70M Vehicle Maintenance Facility at the Orlando International Airport is expected to break ground, and once open will link to Terminal C.
The overall extension project has created 10,000-plus new construction jobs and it is anticipated to create $6.4 billion in direct economic impact to Florida.
One-way fare from Orlando to Miami, on average, could cost a passenger $75 using the “Smart” class, which is a cheaper way to travel and includes free Wi-Fi. “Select” class will include food and drink with each ticket.
Pets up to 75-pounds will be permitted on the trains for an extra $5 per ticket.
“Virgin Trains USA is positioned as the most comfortable, reliable, fastest, cheapest, productive and safest way to get people between highly populated cities and congested corridors,” said Patrick Goddard, Virgin Trains USA president in a recorded presentation.
Virgin Trains will be the only rail company to screen every passenger, according to Ms. Mitzner. Passengers will be able to choose their seat when selecting a ticket, minimizing the wait time for trains to take off.
There are also plans to expand Virgin Trains ability to travel from Orlando to Tampa in the coming years. Currently on the West Coast, the company has already started expanding service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, cutting travel time between the two cities by 50%.
For more information on railroad construction, visit www.gobrightline.com/railroad-construction.