By Jessica Sanchez, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Late last month Miami-Dade lawmakers unanimously approved terms of an estimated $53.3 million project with Virgin Trains to build a station that by 2020 residents and tourists would be able to use directly from Orlando International Airport (near Walt Disney World) to PortMiami.
PortMiami is the largest passenger port in the world for cruises, located in Biscayne Bay just off the MacArthur Causeway linking Miami Beach to Miami. Brightline also already has a Miami station located in Virgin MiamiCentral, at 600 NW 1st Avenue.
The new PortMiami project intended to boost the Sunshine State’s tourism is sponsored by Miami-Dade County Commission Vice-Chair Woman, Rebeca Sosa. This authorizes Mayor Carlos Giménez to agree on terms with Virgin Trains USA, a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries that currently operates as Brightline.
Costs for the project include $15.4 million to build the 20,500 square foot station on at least one acre of the seaport, $35 million for a 240 passenger train set and other overruns to be paid by Virgin. Also, through a $2 fee per departing rail passenger, the county plans to repay $5.2 million it would invest.
“This is a first-of-its-kind train to port station that will connect the cruise capital of the world with a car-free option for millions of cruisers looking to start their vacation a little earlier,” Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard said in a statement.
“This is a tremendous partnership and infrastructure investment between PortMiami, Miami-Dade County and Brightline that will increase mobility, take cars off the road and provide our state’s visitors an easier way to get around.”
The trip between the two urban cities would last just three hours, while passengers enjoy a fast ride with food and drink service and also Wi-Fi. This is intended to benefit not only tourists, but also residents and business commuters.
All maintenance costs for the stations, operations, trains and customer services, and passenger shuttles to curise terminals included would be paid by the company. Virgin Trains would agree to not operate a train station at any other port for the first ten years of the accord.
As part of the development it would also upgrade its tracks at the seaport but the memo says it would still need to share the tracks with other rail operators “actual and future”.
Additionally, the company launched Phase II of a multibillion-dollar project that connects its West Palm Beach station to the one in Orlando and which includes prospective stops in Fort Pierce and Stuart.
The company believes completing Phase II will take approximately three years this including adding more than 170 miles of new tracks and it is also looking to add stations in Boca Raton and Aventura.