May 28, 2014 / 10:30 PM / in 4 years

Florida fast-rail line unveils plan for landmark Miami station

MIAMI (Reuters) - Local officials and railway executives unveiled plans on Wednesday for a sprawling 3 million-square-foot Miami train station complex including an 80-story skyscraper, to anchor the state’s first privately owned intercity railway and help redevelop the downtown area.

Officials from All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group, liken the Miami station to such well-known city landmarks as New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, and say they expect to break ground in the coming months with a target completion date sometime in 2016.

The 235-mile rail link, with a total budget of $2.5 billion, will run from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, taking about three hours and traveling at speeds of up to 110 mph (177 kph). Ticket prices have yet to be announced.

The ground floor of the 11.2-acre downtown site will be filled with shops and restaurants, sliced by a 50-foot-high platform and topped with four high rise buildings, including an 80-story skyscraper.

Executives hope the complex will spur nearby development, especially in blighted, low-income areas near downtown Miami that have yet to attract the kind of investment taking place near the city’s center.

“This will be a land bridge that connects the courthouse district to the emerging arts district,” Roger Duffy, a partner with station architect Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, said during a press conference Wednesday.

The service will be geared mainly toward business travelers and tourists looking to move up and down Florida’s east coast.

Railways were a critical part of south Florida’s development in the early 20th century. In the late 19th century industrialist and Standard Oil co-founder Henry Flagler, whose name is found commonly throughout the area, ran a line from Jacksonville on the Florida-Georgia border to Key West, building hotels for northern tourists along the way.

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

Editing by David Adams and David Gregorio

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