Plans for the largest of All Aboard Florida’s four stations were unveiled Wednesday, promising to change the downtown Miami skyline with a Grand Central Station-like landmark rail hub flanked by new skyscrapers.
Stations are also planned in downtown Fort Lauderdale, downtown West Palm Beach and at Orlando International Airport. But the Miami station is the first one officials have disclosed details on and may give residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties a glimpse of what’s to come.
The company that plans to launch a Miami-to-Orlando roundtrip passenger rail service in 2016 says it will transform a mostly vacant area between Government Center and Metrorail’s Overtown stop with offices, housing, shops and parking.
The station and its 50-foot-tall platform above the streets will connect All Aboard Florida’s trains to Metrorail, the bus system and a downtown people mover called Metromover.
The development, with 3 million square feet of space, will be spread over two sites: 9 acres just east of Miami-Dade County Hall and a 2-acre site nearby in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood. Renderings show several new towers of varying height. Officials say the design will feature retail shops beneath the elevated tracks and allow through streets to remain open to traffic and “create an atmosphere of walkability.”
“All Aboard Florida will be one of the most transformative projects for the city of Miami,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
“Millions of commuters and local residents will benefit from the Miami station,” said Michael Reininger, All Aboard Florida’s President and Chief Development Officer.
All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, will run 16 trains each way, each day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on existing Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and Cocoa, then west on new tracks to Orlando.
At speeds of up to 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando, the trains will make the trip from West Palm Beach to Orlando in 1 hour and 45 minutes; 2 hours and 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale, or three hours from Miami. In South Florida, the trains are expected to travel an average of 60 mph to 79 mph, the speed of Tri-Rail and Amtrak.
The plans are under scrutiny by the Federal Rail Administration now, which will issue an environmental impact statement soon.
The company has been assembling land in downtown Fort Lauderdale. But details about the development — covering a large swath north of Broward Boulevard near the FEC tracks — have been scarce. Hotel rooms, housing, retail, office space and a new courthouse and government center are among the possibilities.
The West Palm Beach station would occupy two acres north of City Place and west of the Clematis Street entertainment district.
Both the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations will feature a 35-foot-wide passenger platform between two tracks.
The “island” platform design allows passengers to board from either side.
In Orlando, the station will be about a mile south of the main airport terminal and have space for a future spur of central Florida’s SunRail commuter train and a proposed magnetically levitated system from the airport to the Orange County Convention Center.