BOCA RATON, Fla. — Brightline has been idle since last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rail system said it's working to restore service to South Florida with plans to restart later this year.
One community that is keeping a close watch on Brightline's progress is Boca Raton. The city is committed to building a new Brightline station, a plan approved months before the pandemic's onset.
"We approached Brightline saying Boca Raton would want to be a part of the Brightline system," Councilmember Andy Thomson said.
Brightline currently operates between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Construction on an Orlando station is underway with a completion date set in late 2022, though there is a chance it won't be ready until 2023.
"We passed the arrangement that we have with them, which is a lease arrangement for the land right next to the Boca Raton library behind us," he said.
Thomson said the total cost of the station and garage is $46 million. The city's portion of that, following an award of over $16 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration, was reduced to $9.9 million.
Even with the current pause in Brightline's service, the city isn't second-guessing their decision.
"Nobody could have predicted a pandemic and so, I don't if that affected the calculus in my mind as to whether the Brightline station was a good idea or not," he said.
For Joan and Eric Blausteim, the new station just makes sense living within walking distance from it all.
"I think it would be a great asset to the community," Joan said.
Thomson said the city is reviewing the site plans. Once they're approved and funds are in hand, they'll break ground. Completion is expected in late 2022.