Brightline to start simulated service this week

5:25 p.m Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 Business
Off-duty officers man the Florida East Coast Railway crossings in downtown West Palm Beach as a Brightline train passes last summer. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline will begin simulated service this week, running 10 round-trip trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks as it prepares for the launch of its passenger service later this month.

The trains will not be carrying passengers.

The company said the simulated service includes 10 northbound and 10 southbound trains operating daily between 15th Street in West Palm Beach and Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. On that schedule, Brightline’s trains will travel 20 times a day through railroad crossings between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Brightline is expected to start shuttling passengers between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale this month, with service to Miami set to begin in the first quarter of 2018, according to an analysis of a $600 million bond issue the company plans to use to help pay for the project.

The company has not released ticket prices or the train schedule.

RELATED: Brightline to start limited service in December

The December start comes five months after Brightline’s original launch date, which called for service to begin this summer on the 30-minute route between downtown West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. A series of issues delayed the launch of the project.

MORE: High-speed rail bill opposed by Brightline clears first hurdle

Despite the delays, officials said this past week that a plan to create a quiet zone to silence the horns of both Brightline’s trains and other freight traffic along the Florida East Coast Railway is still on track. The zone is expected to be enacted in the weeks following Brightline’s official launch.

In Palm Beach County, it will run from 15th Street in West Palm Beach south to the county line.

Kim DeLaney, the director of strategic development and policy for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which is working with local governments to implement the quiet zone, said it is important for pedestrians and motorists to get used to the new passenger trains before the horns are silenced.

“The rational that has been coordinated with (federal officials) is that it is better and safer for communities to be aware the new trains are operational and operating at a higher speed before the horns are then silenced,” DeLaney said this past week.

In addition to Brightline’s passenger service, freight trains will continue to operate along the FEC route.

For years, the FEC line had a single track that was used only by freight trains.

Brightline required the construction of a second track — an addition that will allow two trains to pass each other at the same time and mix freight and passenger traffic.

Now, if the crossing gates are down and a train goes by, a second train could still be approaching the intersection. Brightline’s passenger trains will also move faster than freight traffic. The company’s trains are expected to reach speeds of up to 79 mph between Miami and West Palm Beach. Freight trains on the FEC line operate at speeds of between 35 mph and 40 mph, although the trains are capable of moving up to 60 mph, officials have said.

On Tuesday, Brightline officials said safety remains their top priority.

“With the double tracking in place, trains can run in either direction and at any time,” Brightline said. “The public should always expect a train and should cross only at designated at-grade crossings.”

Brightline said it is important for the public to “adhere to the laws and regulations as they interact with the railway.”