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Virgin Trains USA starts work on tracks to Orlando

Virgin Trains USA, formerly Brightline, has started a $4 billion construction project on the tracks between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport.

Virgin Trains said the first load of steel for the tracks was shipped from Steel Dynamics in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on May 16. The high-speed rail project will take three years.

While there are existing tracks from West Palm Beach to Jacksonville, they are being upgraded for higher speed trains. New tracks are needed for the 35 miles between Cocoa and the airport’s intermodal center.

The project comes with gigantic numbers.

Virgin Trains contracted with Granite Construction Co. for approximately 300,000 cubic yards of excavation, 5.4 million cubic yards of embankment fill, 865,000 square feet of mechanically stabilized earth retaining wall, 100,000 lineal feet of piling, 18 new bridges, three underpasses, drainage installations, track and signalization installation, and 60 track miles of rail construction.

Rail for the Virgin Trains USA tracks are loaded on a rail car
Rail for the Virgin Trains USA tracks are loaded on a rail car

Altogether the phase 2 contractors, which also include Hubbard Construction Co., Wharton-Smith Inc., The Middlesex Corp. and HSR Constructors, will need to lay 170 miles of new tracks.

Part of the project includes upgrading 129 miles of existing track to permit speeds of up to 110 mph. HSR Constructors will do most of that, shifting 56 miles of existing track and constructing 100 miles of new track.  HSR Constructors is a joint venture of three of the leading railroad and transit contractors in the nation: Herzog, Stacy and Witbeck and Railworks.

“Connecting Central and South Florida will bring thousands of jobs today and by modernizing infrastructure, we will strengthen Florida’s economy for decades,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Virgin Trains USA. “For a project of this scope and magnitude, a world-class construction team has been assembled to undertake this tremendous assignment and we congratulate them helping us make history.”

The Bond Buyer reported that there was strong demand from institutional investors for $1.75 billion in private activity bonds for the rail service in early April. The amount sold was upgraded from $1.5 billion because of demand. The bonds were priced with coupon rates of 6.25 to 6.5 percent.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.