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By Michael Turnbell
August 28, 2015, 3:09 PM
Like pieces of a giant linear puzzle, new tracks are slowly falling into place for a new passenger train service to Orlando.
All Aboard Florida will soon hit a milestone, when freight trains begin using a new bypass track in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The shift will allow freight trains to keep rolling while work proceeds on the station. Similar work is planned around the new station in West Palm Beach in September.
The track shift in Fort Lauderdale was supposed to take place Monday but was postponed due to Tropical Storm Erika. A new date hasn’t been announced.
Construction on both stations, meanwhile, has been under way for months, with the foundations taking shape and piles being driven into the ground along the tracks. Supports for platforms and the modernistic passenger lounges are also rising.
In downtown Miami, more than 1,600 piles have been driven more than 100 feet for the base of a massive elevated station on an 11-acre site near the old Miami Arena.
But construction really won’t take off in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach until freight trains are shifted out of the path of the stations. V-shaped trusses and columns that will be a signature feature at both stations will be cast on site, then erected this fall.
In Fort Lauderdale, the existing two tracks will be rebuilt “bowed” out to make room for a 35-foot-wide, 800-foot long platform where passengers will board trains.
All Aboard Florida is a private passenger rail service that will run from Miami to Orlando via the tracks that parallel to U.S. 1 and Dixie Highway. Service is set to begin in early 2017 from Miami to West Palm Beach and the rest of the line by the end of 2017.
Other signs of progress:
- To date, 18 railroad crossings have been completed. In most cases, the work required construction of a second track through the crossing and reconstruction of the existing track and the approaches to the crossing. About 170 remain to be rebuilt.
- A “practice” freight train will test the new bypass track in downtown Fort Lauderdale before regular freight trains begin using it daily. The test had been scheduled for Sunday, but has been postponed due to Tropical Storm Erika.
- Work on the Northeast 26thStreet crossing in Wilton Manors, which was set to begin Sunday, and on the Johnson Street crossing in Hollywood, which was set to begin Tuesday, has been postponed due to Erika. As of Friday, no new crossing closures in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have been announced.
“We’re trying to piggyback where we can so we only have to close the crossings once for an extended period of time,” said Adrian Share, All Aboard Florida’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure.
Workers will come back at a later date to finish improvements at each crossing so trains do not have to sound their horns except in case of emergencies. In most cases, that work will involve the installation of new lights and gates.
But Share said that work will only take hours, not days, and won’t require lengthy closures of the crossings. The work also will be completed before All Aboard Florida begins service.
For maps showing the traffic detours, visit AllAboardFlorida.com, click on the “Construction” icon and then “Grade Crossing.”
Because construction work will be ramping up in coming months, motorists can receive alerts about future road work by going to “Email Sign Up,” also on the “Grade Crossing” page.
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Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel
Turnbell, Michael. ‘New train service hitting construction milestone’. Sun Sentinel 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.