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All Aboard Florida Rail Project Chugging Along

What seemed to be a dream that many believed would eventually fade away appears to be picking up steam. According to Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), All Aboard Florida is envisioned to transform the way people travel throughout the state, offering a faster, safer, and more enjoyable mode of transportation. Here is a brief overview of where the proposed $1 billion privately funded passenger rail project currently stands.

Published August 3, 2012 in Transit      9 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


About All Aboard Florida

All Aboard Florida is a proposed passenger rail service which would operate along the Florida East Coast Railway. The proposed service would connect Miami with Orlando, via a roughly 240-mile route along the Atlantic coast north from Miami to Cocoa, where it would turn west towards Orlando. Startup costs are estimated at $1 billion, including a new 40-mile track segment from Cocoa to Orlando. Unlike all other inter-city rail (Amtrak) in the United States the new service would be privately-owned and operated by Florida East Coast Industries (FECI). One segment of the proposed line would operate at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour, meeting the United States Department of Transportation's definition of high speed rail.

Feasibility studies into beginning the service began in late 2011, and by the time of the public announcement had progressed into detailed ridership and engineering studies. Service is planned to begin in 2014; even if the new trackage into Orlando is not completed, connections at Cocoa would be offered. FECI anticipates that project will stimulate 6,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs.  One of the goals is to operate the trains with an overall average speed similar to the Acela Express operating on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington, DC, reducing the travel time between Miami and Orlando to three hours and two minutes versus the approximately four hour driving time. Trains will offer a full range of premium amenities including Wi-Fi internet service, gourmet meals and beverage service, comfortable seating, reserved business & coach service seating, luggage & bicycle accommodations and online reservations.


Eugene Skoropowski

Last month, All Aboard Florida announced that Eugene Skoropowski would be their new senior vice president of passenger rail development. Skoropowski, a 40-year rail veteran, was the director of rail and transit services for the Southeast division of HNTB Corporation.  HNTB was one of the engineering firms working on the defunct Tampa/Orlando high speed rail project with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Zyscovich, Inc.

This past week, All Aboard Florida announced that New York-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has been commissioned to be the project's lead architect and planner.  According to FECI president Vincent Signorello, "SOM is renowned for its inspiring, award-winning design, strong track record of fostering public consensus, and ability to translate infrastructure investment into regional benefits." SOM most recently designed Denver Union Station, which will redevelop an urban center with retail, commercial, and office space and serve as one of the most comprehensive intermodal transportation projects in the country.

Zyscovich Inc., a Miami-based architectural firm will serve as the project's associate architect and planner.  Zyscovich is a name that should be familiar to Jaxons.  Under the leadership of Bill Killingsworth, the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development utilized the firm as a consultant for the City of Jacksonville's Urban Core, Southeast, Arlington/Beaches Visioning Plans.  Zyscovich Architects' long-standing influence on regional architectural design, municipal planning and major urban developments can be also seen in large-scale projects including the Midtown Miami redevelopment project located along the FEC Corridor; master plans for downtown West Palm Beach, downtown Fort Lauderdale, and downtown Miami; and a rail corridor strategic redevelopment plan for the City of Miami. The firm also has extensive transportation and transit-oriented design experience, such as the New Eldorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia and the Airport City Intermodal public-private development project at Miami International Airport. SOM and Zyscovich have been tasked with developing initial station concepts and their related transit oriented developments (TOD).  According to FECI, the firms have started to work immediately on the conceptual development plans for the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando stations.

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August 03, 2012, 04:37:07 AM
Small point, but isn't SOM based out of Chicago?


August 03, 2012, 07:08:20 AM
Yes, you're right.  Their first branch outside of Chicago, opened in New York in 1937.


August 03, 2012, 07:14:10 AM
"All Aboard Florida is envisioned to transform the way people travel throughout the state, offering a faster, safer, and more enjoyable mode of transportation"

Faster? We'll see if reality matches expectations.  Safer?  No doubt!  Traveling by car is the most dangerous thing most Americans do everyday.  More enjoyable?  I think that will depend on the individual.  Less convenient?  This wasn't mentioned in the article but it's the main drawback to all forms of mass transit and what makes the high cost of car ownership and use worth the extra expense.  The best thing about this rail venture is all the money for it will come from voluntary contributors.


August 03, 2012, 08:18:18 AM
I do think if they are able to show you can make a bunch of money developing real estate with rail as a loss leader that will be impressive.


August 03, 2012, 09:36:38 AM

Not to worry, they've been doing the impossible for a long, long, time

Captain Zissou

August 03, 2012, 11:24:50 AM
I miss Bill Killingsworth.


August 03, 2012, 11:29:29 AM
I'm impressed with All Aboard Florida's recent hirings and pace of moving things forward.  It will be interesting to see what happens across this state in the development world, if they make a killing off TOD.


August 03, 2012, 01:41:09 PM
I miss Bill Killingsworth.

he's still around and, from what I hear, working on some pretty interesting things of late


August 09, 2012, 04:26:52 AM
Florida East Coast Industries said its "All Aboard Florida" project is financially viable without any need for federal and state grants or subsidies.

"After completing our due diligence we have decided to go through with it," said Husein Cumber, vice president of corporate development at Florida East Coast Railway, which operates the company's existing freight line.

Construction would begin in early 2013, Cumber said, and when completed the new service would be the only privately run, non-subsidized passenger rail link between two major cities in the United States. A similar private scheme has been proposed in Texas to link Houston and Dallas.

Amtrak, the government-owned national rail corporation, currently offers a twice daily service between Miami and Orlando, taking five to seven hours.

The announcement comes after Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected federal funding in 2011 for a high-speed rail service linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami, saying the state could not afford it.

The new service is designed for tourists and business travelers and would link two of Florida's major urban centers, Cumber told members of the Beacon Council, a public-private partnership to promote business development in Miami-Dade County.

The $1 billion cost includes a set of 10 diesel-powered trains with a 400-seat capacity offering an hourly service with First-class and Business-class seating, gourmet dining and Wi-Fi, as well as new tracks and stations in downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Orlando airport.

The trains would make the journey in 3 hours 3 minutes traveling at speeds of up to 110 mph at a "cost competitive" price compared to the cheapest round-trip airfare of $140-160 or the roughly $120 cost of car travel, Cumber said.


All Aboard Florida would be financed through a combination of debt and equity and would create 6,000 rail construction jobs and 1,000 permanent positions once in operation, he said.

FECI is owned by the Fortress Investment Group and currently operates a 351-mile (565-km) single-track freight rail system along Florida's east coast with a fleet of 85 diesel electronic locomotives and 4,800 freight cars. It generated operating revenues of about $208 million last year.

FECI plans to double-track its existing line along a 100-foot (30-meter) wide corridor that runs most of the 230-mile route between Miami and Orlando, adding an extension for a section from the coast inland to Orlando.

The company also owns 9 acres in the heart of downtown Miami, the site of the former Henry Flagler railroad station, named after the rail pioneer who built Florida's first east-coast railroad system 100 years ago linking Jacksonville to Key West.

"We are now hoping to bring passengers back in a second wave of economic development," said Cumber.

The company is also examining the possibility of expansion to Tampa on Florida's west coast and Jacksonville in the northeast of the state.

Cumber said studies show about 50 million people travel between Miami and Orlando every year, 95 percent making the journey by car in around four to five hours.

Orlando is the most visited city in the nation with 52 million visitors a year, said Cumber. Besides being home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, as well as the University of Central Florida, the nation's second largest university, the city is a major convention destination.

Miami-Dade County has 2.5 million residents, making it the seventh most populous county in the nation, as well as a popular tourist destination and the cruise ship capital of the world.

"It sounds very promising. You have an incredible amount of population density on the east coast, and that's important to any kind of high speed rail project," said Petra Todorovich, a transportation specialist with Regional Plan Association, a New York-based think tank.

Cumber said the new service is being designed to meet the expectations of the traveling public and would also reduce traffic congestion and accidents. Rail travel, he said, would be "faster and safer."
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