The $2.9 billion All Aboard Florida project hit a milestone Sunday evening when freight trains started using a newly built bypass track through downtown West Palm Beach — a shift that will allow crews to complete work on the company’s $29 million station and rail platform under construction near CityPlace.
The new section of track is located between Quadrille Boulevard and the Florida East Coast Railway line. The bypass line, which is being built within the FEC right-of-way, runs from just north of Third Street to south of Hibiscus Street.
The track shift clears the way for the next phase of construction at the downtown station. All Aboard Florida plans to remove the old track to make room for work on the station’s train platform, overhead lobby and waiting area.
“Moving the existing freight rail line will allow us to begin construction on the station and two new rails that will accommodate the passenger service,” said Adrian Share, All Aboard’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure. “This is another step toward creating a new urban living space with an interconnected mobility system.”
The bypass track is expected to be a permanent fixture. Eventually, there will be three rail lines near the station, which is just north of CityPlace between Datura and Evernia streets.
All Aboard Florida began work on the station this year.
In January, the company permanently closed rail crossings at Datura and Evernia streets as part of the construction plan. The station’s 800-foot train platform is planned to rise where the streets once crossed the tracks.
This spring, crews began installing water, sewer and stormwater pipes at the site
and crews started work on the foundation pilings in June.
The West Palm Beach station is one of four the company is building as part of its express passenger rail line planned between Miami and Orlando.
The company plans to run 32 trains a day along the FEC tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. All Aboard Florida plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017. The West Palm Beach-to-Orlando span is expected to begin by the end of 2017.
In Palm Beach County, All Aboard has several crews clearing land along the FEC corridor to make way for a second line, or double tracks, that will allow two trains to pass.
In the coming months, the company will begin upgrading rail signals and crossing arms at railroad intersections.
The company is working with Palm Beach County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization to create a continuous quiet zone to silence train horns along the FEC tracks from the county line north to 15th Street in West Palm Beach. MPO officials are working to extend the zone north to the county line at the same time All Aboard Florida launches its second phase between West Palm Beach and Orlando.