Posts Tagged ‘Virgin Trains USA’

Virgin Wins Appeals Court Ruling on Use of Bonds

January 2, 2020

Virgin Trains USA may use private activity bonds to finance a extension of its route to Orlando, Florida, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision was issued in late December by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled the U.S. Department of Transportation properly determined that Virgin’s project qualified for private activity bond.

The decision rejected a challenge by Indian River County, Florida. The court ruled that although the county had standing in the case, all of its arguments were without merit.

Among the arguments the court rejected was that bonds can’t be used because they are financing more than highway grade crossing renovations.

The court also turned down Indian River’s contention that the environmental impact statement should have looked more closely at such negative effects as trespassing and noise pollution.

The court noted that Virgin plans to put up fences where trespassing has been shown to have occurred and will place pole-mounted horns at 117 highway crossings between West Palm Beach and Cocoa. That includes 23 grade crossing in Indian River County.

Indian County Administrator Jason Brown said the county may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court “but we have to evaluate all of our options.”

Virgin plans to upgrade 20 miles of a Florida East Coast Railway line in Vero Beach, including building a second track and upgrading highway grade crossing protections for 110 mph train speeds.

Construction of Vegas Route to Begin in California

December 14, 2019

Work on building a intercity rail passenger route between Las Vegas and Southern California is expected to begin in California.

Officials with Virgin Trains USA have indicated that construction in Nevada is not expected to begin until 2021.

“They’ll probably start in about five different areas when construction starts,” said Virgin Trains’ business strategy vice president Tina Quigley. “Those five areas will probably be in California,”

Quigley said that only 35 miles of the 170-mile route will be located in Nevada.

Virgin is eyeing a 2023 date to begin the service, but several key steps still need to be taken.

These include receiving a formal record of decision from the Federal Railroad Administration and getting approval from Nevada authorities of a package of bonds worth more than $1 billion.

The latter needs to be finished by January or February in order for Virgin to stay on schedule.

Virgin to Build Station in Boca Raton

December 13, 2019

Virgin Trains USA will build a station in Baca Raton, Florida, after that city council there approved a long-term land lease for the construction of the station and parking garage.

The facility is expected to open by late 2020, becoming the third new station for the service also known as Brightline.

Other new stations are planned at Aventura and PortMiami. Brightline trains currently stop only at West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Virgin will pay for and operate the station, which will be built on a 1.8-acre site near Palmetto Park Road and Dixie Highway.

The city will fund most of the design and construction of the 455-vehicle parking garage adjacent to the station, but Virgin will be responsible for all operating expenses of the garage and the parties will split the profits.

Virgin to Start Laying Rails in January

November 27, 2019

Virgin Rails USA had told an Orlando news outlet that is will begin laying rails in January 2020 for its extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando, Florida.

The carrier said it will begin construction in February 2020 of a $70 million, 138,000 square foot maintenance center that it said will create 160 new jobs.

The 170-mile line to Orland will have 55 bridges that will cost $35 million apiece. Virgin projects that each bridge will take 12 to 30 months to build.

“Obviously our goal is to maximize mobility for the Central and South Florida communities,” said Virgin Trains USA CEO Patrick Goddard said. “We are looking at stations. We are in a dialogue with the Treasure Coast, we are in a dialogue with the Space Coast. We would like to see stations every 50 to 60 miles. I think that’s feasible and reasonable to have an express train service so we will continue to pursue to update those as we make progress.”

Virgin said the steel being used in construction of the line is being purchased from American Steel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Approximately 1,000 will be employed to build the line.

Goddard said before building west of Orlando International Airport that Virgin must reach an agreement on a lease from the Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Virgin plans to build along existing highways between Orlando and Tampa.

Virgin Gets OK to Sell Bonds for Las Vegas Route

November 6, 2019

Virgin Trains USA received approval last week to issue $3.25 billion in development bonds to be used to pay for its Desert Xpress high-speed rail service between Las Vegas and Southern California.

The California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank approved what observers said is the largest bond request in history of the state’s public sector development bank.

The development bank noted the project will create nearly 16,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs once the trains are in operation.

The line will initially terminate in Victorville, California, although Virgin has said it wants to eventually extend service into Los Angeles.

The bond sales are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020 with operations projected to start in 2023.

Virgin to Build Miami Station for Cruise Ship Transfers

November 1, 2019

Virgin Trains USA this week said it would launch a $53.3 million station project in Miami that will steer passengers toward cruise ships and trains bound for Disney World.

To funnel cruise ship passengers, Virgin will build a station on land owned by PortMiami.

But taking passengers to Disney World will hinge on completion of an extension to Orlando that Virgin USA President Patrick Goddard said is expected to be completed in about three years.

The new station in Miami for cruise ship passengers is expected to cost $14.4 million and have 20,500 square feet.

Miami-Dade County will invest $5.4 million into that project and in return expects to receive $49 million in rent and passenger fees over 30 years.
Virgin said that in preparation for the expansion to Orlando it will spend $35 million to buy another trainset.

In a related development, Virgin is also planning to replace Florida East Coast’s single-track, 94-year-old drawbridge over the St. Lucie River at Stuart, Florida, with a double-track lift bridge.

The new bridge will cost $100 million and be 180 feet in length. The existing bridge is 50 feet.

The longer length will allow boats to pass each other in each direction beneath the bridge.

The vertical clearance for marine traffic when the bridge is closed will be 18 feet. The clearance of the existing bridge is 6.5 feet.

The additional clearance is expected to reduce the need to raise the bridge for pleasure boats.

The new bridge is expected to open around the time the extension to Orlando is completed.

Virgin Eyes Mid 2020 Groundbreaking on Vegas Route

October 26, 2019

Virgin Trains USA indicated in a recent presentation to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in Las Vegas that groundbreaking for construction of its proposed Las Veglas-Southern California service will occur in mid 2020.

Virgin is seeking support from Nevada public officials for tax-exempt, private activity bonds that will be used to fund the project.

Similar funding was used to start and expand service in Florida.

In its Nevada presentation, Virgin indicated that it is moving faster than others have in the past to get revenue trains in service by late 2023 between Las Vegas and Victorville, California.

In time, Virgin said it will expand service Victorville to downtown Los Angeles.

Funding Approved for New Virgin Trains Station

October 20, 2019

The commissioners of Miami-Dade County in Florida have approved $76 million for construction of a Virgin Trains USA station at the Aventura Mall.

The new depot will be built at 19700 West Dixie Highway and could open in 2020.

The location is about halfway between the MiamiCentral and Fort Lauderdale stations.

Among the elements of the project is a pedestrian bridge over the highway to connect to the Aventura Mall.

Funding for the station will come from sale taxes. Although Virgin Trains will develop the station, the county will own it.

The funding approval came only after Virgin Trains agree to build workforce-housing units at the site, which typically charge below-market rates.

Some commissioners indicated they would rather have seen commuter rail run to the mall site, saying intercity service will be too expensive for everyday use by locals looking to access jobs and services in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

“How many people are we actually going to serve here? Because it’s not a commuter rail,” said

Commissioner Joe Martinez. “The fares, I think, will be out of the reach of a lot of people.”

A one-way fare between Aventura and Miami will cost $9.75.

However, the commissioners decided there is not enough political support to extend Tri-Rail commuter service to Aventura.

“We have been talking for years,” said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. “If we sit down and do nothing, nothing will ever happen in this county.  So it’s time for us to step up and start.”

Virgin May Gain Another Station in Miami

October 8, 2019

Virgin Trains USA may spend $76 million to build a new station for its rail service in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

The proposed location of the station is near the Aventura Mall. The facility would also serve Metrorail and buses.

The county could use its half-percent transportation tax to purchase land for the station, which would be built by Virgin with public funding.

Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been pushing for a vote by the County Commission on that plan.

Thursday, but a source familiar with the planning said Monday night that a special meeting next week is more likely.

Virgin has pledged to give Aventura-bound passengers a 35 percent discount on its normal fare for trips between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Currently that fare is $15 today, so a ticket to Aventura would be $9.75 one-way.

Virgin would funding station operations and services with its existing trains and staff. The service is commonly known as Brightline.

Virgin Gets Preliminary OK on California Bonds

September 24, 2019

A California agency has given Virgin Trains USA received preliminary approval to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance its Xpress West high speed rail project between Southern California and Las Vegas.

The Debt Limit Allocation Committee recommended that Virgin receive the first $300 million of its request, contingent on it providing an economic development plan that outlines its goals, and how it plans to achieve them, in the areas of housing, jobs, and workforce development.

Virgin Trains plans to seek more than $3.2 billion of tax-exempt debt to be issued by a state agency, including more than $800 million in California’s share of U.S. Department of Transportation tax-exempt proceeds.

The company also plans to seek $800,000 in bonds from Nevada, plus part of the federal allocation, providing a total of $4.2 billion in tax-exempt financing for the project.

A similar funding method was used to finance the Brightline service in Florida that Virgin operates.