This week, Virgin Trains USA President Patrick Goddard announced plans to begin serving PortMiami with a $53.3 million station project that will enable direct passenger transfers between cruise ships and trains to Disney World, Miami Today is reporting. In return for its $5.2 million investment, Miami-Dade County expects to receive $49 million in rent and passenger fees over 30 years.
The agreement allows Virgin to build a $15.4-million, 20,500-square-foot station on port land; $35 million is being allocated to the purchase of another trainset. The company has previously reported it intends to add more Siemens locomotives and passenger cars — including a cafe car — once service to Orlando begins.
Earlier this month, Miami-Dade commissioners approved investing $76 million in a new station at Aventura, about 16 miles north of Virgin MiamiCentral, and the company has begun negotiations with Boca Raton officials for a station there, 27 miles south of West Palm Beach.
Meanwhile, Treasure Coast Newspapers reports that Virgin now intends to eventually replace Florida East Coast Railway’s single-track, 94-year-old drawbridge over the St. Lucie River at Stuart, Fla., with a double-track lift bridge. The new movable span will be 180 feet long, compared with the existing bridge’s 50-foot length, allowing boats to pass underneath in opposing directions.
Rusty Roberts, Virgin’s vice president of government affairs, says vertical clearance in the closed position will be 18 feet, instead of 6.5 feet with the current bridge. This means many recreational boats won’t require a bridge lift as they do now.
Roberts says the new bridge is expected to cost $100 million and won’t be ready when trains first begin running to Orlando, but the structure and higher accompanying approach tracks can be built while the old bridge is still in use.
Local boat owners, including former American Airlines President and Chairman Robert Crandall, led years of opposition to Brightline, but Martin County eventually came to an agreement with Virgin that did not call for the bridge’s replacement among promised infrastructure and safety improvements. However, a new double track bridge that doesn’t require as many lifts will eliminate a choke point that would otherwise negatively impact both freight and passenger train reliability.