Virgin Trains is on track for its expansion into Orlando as the scale of work continues to grow across Central Florida.
The $4 billion West Palm Beach-to-Orlando expansion, which includes 170 miles of new and existing track, is set to be completed in 2022 after starting work this past May. Since that point, crews along the corridor have been clearing space for new tracks among other work.
As construction has expanded, one of the challenges is coordinating with area stakeholders on the project, Michael Cegelis, Virgin Trains executive vice president of infrastructure, said during a Nov. 21 media preview of the track. Those stakeholders include the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“We have lots of stakeholders — that’s where the challenges come,” Cegelis said. “Typically, we are a private sector company looking to make decisions and move fast, and the challenge is sometimes these entities are not used to moving at the same speed we are. But, we have a good relationship that helps prevent some issues.”
Work on the route will include:
- Zone 1 vehicle maintenance facility and station at Orlando International Airport: The Vehicle Maintenance Facility will be a $70 million, 138,000-square-foot facility that will employ 160 people in high-skill jobs, including train engineers, conductors, technicians and inspectors. Construction of the building structure is set to begin in February.
- Zones 2 and 3 include 40 miles of new rail from Cocoa to Orlando International Airport: Work on this corridor includes 30 bridges for the rail line, along with three underpasses going toward Cocoa. Currently clearing work is continuing across the zones to make way for track work.
- Zone 4 reconstruction of 129 miles of track and infrastructure from West Palm Beach to Cocoa: The existing track in the area will be reinforced to allow for higher speeds of rail travel. Clearing work is underway in the area and materials are being stationed on the corridor.
The project is expected to create more than 10,000 temporary construction jobs over the life of the project and generate $653 million in federal, state and local tax revenue. The project will create more than 2,000 permanent jobs post-construction.
Progress on the Orlando route comes as a Jan. 1 deadline was set for right-of-way negotiations for the proposed Tampa route between Virgin Trains, the Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation. This gives the parties another 90 days to reach an agreement that would allow for construction to begin on a $1.7 billion expansion of the intercity passenger rail system.
The company also still is evaluating train station sites in the area that may serve one or more local theme parks, something it is targeting for fourth-quarter this year.
“Virgin Trains is in discussions with Walt Disney World Resort and others on that potential,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Miami-based Virgin Trains USA.
Virgin Trains also is in discussions on a possible station at the Treasure Coast and Space Coast, and is evaluating the potential to connect with SunRail at its Meadow Woods station or another location.
“The train line is considering connections to boost area mobility,” Goddard said. “As we take care of that medium haul trip, we are looking at groups from the public and private sector to pick it up from there. There’s a phenomenal opportunity there and that’s part of the dialogue we are having with the various agencies involved.”
Check out the SFBJ photo slideshow on the progress of the Virgin Trains’ progress by clicking here.