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3 Things to Know: Brightline rail upgrades, train expected this fall

Locomotive tested on rails in California

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline announced Thursday it has completed initial testing of its first locomotive at a manufacturing plant in Sacramento, California.

The company said the locomotive, which is powered by a diesel-electric engine, was tested on a quarter-mile-long track at the Siemens manufacturing facility in California.

As part of the announcement, Brightline posted a video on its YouTube channel showing a driver operating the locomotive for the first time.

“After several years worth of effort the first of the train parts are coming together, and we are nearing the end of the manufacturing process for the first of our exciting new train sets,” Brightline President Michael Reininger said in the video.

The initial testing marks a milestone for the passenger rail service, which plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The company plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in mid-2017.

In addition to the engine, Brightline officials said they tested 45 other areas on the locomotive, including the air and braking systems, the doors, the fire detection system and warning devices.

Brightline’s passenger trains are comprised of two locomotives and four stainless steel passenger cars.

“The operation of the locomotive and its passing of the initial track testing has demonstrated Siemens’ engineering expertise and given us a high degree of confidence that the Brightline service will be exceptionally reliable,” said Gene Skoropowski, senior vice president of railroad operations for Brightline. “Brightline will be the only passenger rail service in the country to have such dynamic and modern trains that will offer Americans a new and modern experience in train travel.”

Train expected in the fall

Brightline officials have said the first passenger train is expected to arrive in West Palm Beach this fall. The train will be housed at the company’s rail repair facility currently under construction just north of downtown.

“Once in the facility, it will undergo several months of static and dynamic testing,” Brightline said on its website. “When the dynamic testing begins, the train will be running on a short “test track” between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.”

Brightline began construction on the rail repair facility in January.

The facility will be used to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline’s trains, All Aboard officials said. About 50 people will work out of the 12-are site at 601 15th Street, which is also expected to serve as an office for the company’s conductors, engineers, and on-board service staff.

Initially, five Brightline trains will be housed at the site, officials have said.

Martin County continues to challenge project

Martin County commissioners last month said they planned to continue to fight to block the rail line’s expansion north through the Treasure Coast.

Martin officials declared a “major victory” in the battle last month, after a federal judge denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging All Aboard Florida’s ability to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for the project.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper last month found that the bonds are key to All Aboard Florida’s ability to complete the second phase of the rail line

Martin and Indian River counties filed federal lawsuits last year against the U.S. Department of Transportation challenging whether All Aboard Florida is eligible for the private activity bonds. All Aboard Florida is an intervenor in the suit.

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