No shouts of “All aboard!” were heard in Brevard County on Tuesday, but dozens who came out for a look got to catch sight of a Brightline passenger train as it rolled in for the first time.

What You Need To Know

  • The Brightline railway extending from Miami to Orlando is about 70% complete

  • Passengers will be able to ride starting in early 2023

  • The qualifying runs, which began on Tuesday, will operate daily

It was something that Joel Provoncha and his partner Terry Puringon were eager to see Tuesday morning.

“It just has a fascination and a romance to it that just doesn’t change,” Provoncha said. “You hear that train whistle and it just gets your heart going.”

Tuesday was the start of qualifying runs for Brightline. The daily operations are designed to allow the crew who will be operating the trains to familiarize themselves with the terrain and the controls on this new passenger locomotive. 

“These qualifying runs will operate daily, one round trip a day to start,” said Katie Mitzner, the director of public affairs for Brightline. “We’re starting with having three of our crew members trained on this corridor and once they’re trained, which will take a couple of weeks, they will start training our additional crew members.”

The $2.7 billion project has been in the works for years, but Tuesday marked the first time that one of Brightline’s trains passed north of West Palm Beach and up into Brevard County. 

The train that passed through consisted of two locomotives and four passenger cars. It reached the Micco community in southern Brevard County around 11:15 a.m. and was back on its way to West Palm Beach roughly an hour later.

Wednesday’s qualifying run to Cocoa was canceled, but qualifying runs were expected to resume Thursday. The train is expected to depart at 7 a.m. and arrive in Cocoa at about 11 a.m. Eastern Time.

“We are expecting to reach substantial completion on the Orlando extension, which is a 168-mile corridor, by the end of this year and start carrying passengers in 2023,” Mitzner said.

She said that since rail service was deemed an essential service throughout the pandemic, they have been able to stay on track with the construction goals and haven’t been too hampered by supply chain issues either.

“We really never missed a beat," Mitzner said. "We kept things going, we kept people working safely and we have over 1,300 workers on the job that, to date, have logged 4.7 million-man hours. So, we’re very proud of that.” 

About 70% of the extension project has been finished at this point in time. Mitzner added that they are still looking at the possibility of adding a station somewhere in Brevard County as a part of Brightline’s strategic vision plan, noting that there’s quite a bit of interest for such a service on the Space Coast.

For folks like Provoncha, who made it a point to see the new train Tuesday, the idea of having this new travel capability in Central Florida is very exciting. 

“These have been around for over a hundred years and how far they’ve come from steam locomotives to now this high-tech rail system where they can go upwards of 100 miles an hour and the technology is just fascinating,” he said.

Those wishing to keep up to date on the qualifying runs can text “January” to 888-384-0037.