Brightline will begin simulated service to its station in downtown Miami on Saturday, a sign the company is moving closer to shuttling passengers beyond its stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Trains that are used for the simulation will not be carrying passengers. Brightline has said it plans to open the Miami station to the public in the coming weeks.
“This is part of the necessary training and testing required before revenue service begins in the coming weeks,” the company said.
In preparation for its Miami launch, Brightline announced Thursday that it will change its daily schedule for trains operating between its stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Beginning Saturday,weekday trains depart from West Palm Beach on the hour, except for the first train that departs at 5:30 a.m., and from Fort Lauderdale at 37 minutes past the hour, except on Fridays when there is an additional departure at 11:57 p.m.
On weekends, Brightline will operate 90-minute intervals between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The new departure times will remain the same once Brightline begins shuttling passengers to downtown Miami, the company said.
As Brightline prepares for its Miami opening, the company continues to face challenges on its plan to extend the service north to Orlando.
On Wednesday, State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, called on Gov. Rick Scott to direct the Florida Development Finance Corp. to hold off on the sale of tax-exempt bonds to help finance Brightline expansion from West Palm Beach to Orlando.
The financing corporation, is a special unit created by the state Legislature in 1993 to help businesses and nonprofit groups finance capital projects that promote economic development. It acts as a conduit, issuing both traditional and tax-exempt bonds on behalf of borrowers.
Mayfield’s request came days after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and members of a congressional oversight committee raised questions about Brightline’s plan sell up to $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for its Orlando leg.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Rubio, R-Florida, said “it is not clear” whether Brightline’s express trains meet the federal requirements to qualify for the tax-exempt, private activity bonds.
Brightline has already sold $600 million in tax-exempt, private activity bonds to help pay for its Miami to West Palm Beach service. Trains began operating between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in January.
The company last year also won approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to sell an additional $1.15 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help finance its second phase between West Palm Beach and Orlando. The Florida Development Finance Corp. could act as a conduit for that sale.
Brightline executives have said the bonds provide a lower-cost alternative to other financing options.