Private passenger rail operator Brightline has pushed back completion of its trunk line between Miami and Orlando to early next year.
Brightline anticipates “substantial completion” — or the end of construction — of the line in the first quarter of 2023, according to a bond prospectus released Wednesday. The delay appears to be due to work on the 129-mile section of track between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, Fla., that will not be complete until early in the new year. That timeline is several months later than the Christmas target for test trains to begin running that Wes Edens, founder and Co-CEO of Brightline owner Fortress Investment, outlined in June.
“You’re going to have the train running [to] Orlando hopefully by Christmas time,” he said at the time.
Brightline cannot begin running trains with paying passengers until construction is complete and after a U.S. Federal Railroad Administration-required testing period, the operator said. It is working with the regulator to “expedite” the latter process.
“We have made tremendous progress, completing 80 percent of construction through the pandemic and subsequent supply chain challenges,” a Brightline spokesperson said. “We’re on track to complete the system at the beginning of 2023.”
Aside from construction of the Orlando trunk line, Brightline has seen positive progress on many of its other initiatives. Passenger revenues from its in service Miami-West Palm Beach line were 147 percent above 2019 levels in the second quarter. And the railroad is on schedule to open two new South Florida stations — Aventura and Boca Raton — in the December quarter. In addition, Brightline has finalized agreements on the alignment of a planned 90-mile extension to Tampa from Orlando, which will include stations at the Orlando Convention Center, near Disney World, and in downtown Tampa.
Brightline is the only privately-owned passenger rail project under constriction in the U.S.