Construction of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline train station in downtown West Palm Beach reached a new milestone on Friday when company officials hoisted a bright yellow flag on top of the building to mark the completion of vertical construction at the site.
Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach commissioners, tourism leaders and construction workers were among the roughly 100 people who attended a “topping out” ceremony at the station site on Friday — an event that signifies the project has reached its top elevation and the “skeleton” of the building is complete.
Construction crews in Nov. 2014 began demolition work at the site located just north of CityPlace between Datura and Evernia streets west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The first of 18 large concrete pillars, which serve as the station’s architectural signature, was hoisted into place in March.
On Friday, construction crews had moved on to the exterior finishing work outside the building. Escalators that will carry passengers to the station’s waiting areas perched above the train tracks rested near the building, wrapped in plastic and ready to be installed.
“It was about two years ago that we were standing very nearby here with a bulldozer to take down a building that was standing at this site in order to really mark the beginning of the journey that we are coming to the end of,” Brightline’s president Michael Reininger told the crowd gathered at Friday’s ceremony. “If you think about that, in just a short two-year time, we went from that to what is soon to become a glorious new station right here in the hub of downtown.”
Over the next six months, Reininger said the company plans to hire 133 employees to operate the station, work with customers, and help with the company’s fleet of trains.
Construction on the first phase of Brightline’s service, which includes three stations and track work between Miami and West Palm Beach, is more than 65 percent complete, a company official said. As part of the project, Brightline is adding a second track to the Florida East Coast railway line. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin next year.
Eventually, Brightline plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The second phase of the track work, which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun.
Martin County commissioners have been fighting to block the rail line’s expansion north through the Treasure Coast. Martin officials this month raised questions about the service’s proposed path, saying All Aboard has not considered a western alternative that would keep trains away from more populated eastern neighborhoods.
On Friday, Palm Beach County leaders said they welcomed the project, adding that it would bring tourists to the area, as well as provide an easy way for locals to travel between West Palm Beach and Miami.
“We have been big supporters since the very beginning because we believe this is just a wonderful alternative for people to get to the Palm Beaches,” said Jorge Pesquera, the president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, Palm Beach County’s official tourism marketing organization.
West Palm Beach City Commissioner Paula Ryan, whose district includes the station site, said the express passenger train will be an important transportation project for the city.
“I want to thank Brightline for having the vision to take this new, old way of thinking and bringing it to the City of West Palm Beach,” Ryan said. “The ability for us to get on a train and…go to any event outside of West Palm Beach and not get in your car is something that my husband and I have only dreamed about.”