Proposed Florida rail link says to partly open in late 2016

ORLANDO, July 8 Tue Jul 8, 2014 4:56pm EDT

ORLANDO, July 8 (Reuters) - The Florida company planning a privately financed rail line plans to launch service in south Florida in late 2016, it said on Tuesday, but delays have pushed back the timing for a northern leg to Orlando.

All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group LLC, has been working since 2012 on the 240-mile rail link that would compete for some of the 50 million annual travelers between Miami and Orlando who now make the trip mostly by car or plane.

"We're sort of set to go for the south segment. The north segment from West Palm Beach to Orlando has a very different construction timeline," said Julie Edwards, chief marketing officer for All Aboard.

Earlier public timelines did not distinguish between the two geographical segments.

The southern segment will offer service between its three planned stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

All Aboard is moving ahead with the southern portion, unveiling designs on Tuesday for its Fort Lauderdale station and taking delivery of track to double the track it already owns between the three southern cities, Edwards said. It announced plans for station in downtown Miami in May.

The company has not yet spent any construction money on the northern segment while it awaits federal approval of an environmental impact assessment of the route, she said.

The All Aboard train will run on 200 miles of existing track which the company already owns, and an additional 40 miles of brand new track that must be laid between Brevard County and Orlando International Airport.

The Federal Railroad Administration gave approval of the southern segment in early 2014. An FRA spokesman said Tuesday the draft assessment for the northern segment should be ready in about a month, which will be followed by public hearings.

Some objections are being raised by residents and elected officials along the middle of the route where the train will pass at speeds of about 100 miles per hour without stopping.

Edwards said if FRA approval comes in the fall, "then we would immediately start with construction."

The company is not currently projecting an opening date for the northern route, she said, but hopes it will not be long after the southern route begins service. (Editing by David Adams)

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