ORLANDO, Fla. — Brightline’s unfolding expansion from Miami to Orlando will enter a testing phase this month with the state's inter-city trains expected to reach speeds likely never seen in Florida.
Test runs will occur along newly refurbished track in Martin and St. Lucie counties, with Brightline’s California-made train sets scheduled to hit 110 mph, which is to be the operational speed when service begins next year.
When asked if that speed will be the fastest ever by a train in Florida — or whether Henry Flagler’s locomotives or Amtrak’s passenger service or any other train was ever speedier — Brightline would not address whether it is about to make history.
It’s unlikely the company hasn’t thought about the record books, having invested $5 billion to link Miami and Orlando with service faster than driving and less odious than flying.
The Miami-based, privately owned railroad went silent on speed records and pivoted to safety messaging.
“The start of 110 mph testing is an important milestone for the future of train travel in Florida and across the U.S.,” spokesperson Katie Mitzner said.
“If the crossing arms are down, don’t drive around them,” Mitzner said. “Never stop on the tracks and only cross tracks at a designated railroad crossing. Failure to follow the law could result in fines, points on your license or your life.”
Brightline and state and federal railroad officials have sought to stem a relatively high rate of accidents and deaths between Miami and West Palm Beach, where top train speeds are 79 mph.
The stretch through Martin and St. Lucie counties was designed and constructed under criticism that stepping up train speeds to 110 mph would bring more accidents.
Brightline has vowed to strengthen safety at crossings, including with arms that block all of a road at both sides of a crossing or with medians that prevent drivers from attempting to circle into oncoming lanes to get around a crossing arm.
Initial testing in the two Treasure Coast counties will be for six weeks along nearly a dozen miles with nine crossings.
In January, Brightline will conduct 110 mph tests in Brevard County. Along the segment across Orange County on the way to Orlando International Airport there are no crossings with roads and train speeds will be as high as 125 mph.