Brightline announces Stuart as home to new Treasure Coast station

Station located at 500 SE Flagler Ave. expected to open by end of 2026
A Brightline train passes through Stuart during a recent test on the Treasure Coast ahead of service from South Florida to Orlando.
Posted at 12:49 AM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 18:37:44-05

STUART, Fla. — Brightline is coming to Stuart.

That was the official announcement from the high-speed passenger rail service during a news conference on Monday.

WPTV first reported last week that Brightline had selected Stuart for its Treasure Coast location. The company had considered five proposals in Martin and St. Lucie counties.

"We are here moving millions of people across the state. Literally connecting half of the state of Florida," Brian Kronberg, the senior vice president of construction and development for Brightline, said. "With that has come the demand for new train stations."

WATCH: Brightline announces new train station in Stuart

Officials announce new Brightline station in Stuart

The station, which will be located at 500 SE Flagler Ave. in Stuart, will cost up to $60 million, based on the application WPTV received from a public records request.

The goal is to open the station by the end of 2026, Kronberg said.

Kronberg added that after Brightline opened a station in Orlando last year, the company turned its attention to the Treasure Coast, requesting proposals from various municipalities.

"The decision to select Stuart was driven by a number of key factors, including the location and physical characteristics of the site," Kronberg said. "Two-and-a-half acres in the heart of downtown will be a great place to house our Treasure Coast site."

According to a 2018 settlement with Martin County, Brightline was required to build a Treasure Coast station either in Martin or St. Lucie counties within five years of launching service to Orlando, which began Sept. 22, 2023.

Martin County and the city of Stuart had offered to pay about 75% of the cost for the Brightline station if the rail line chose to build its Treasure Coast station near the county courthouse.

According to the interlocal agreement between the city and county, no more than $60 million of the cost would be split between the three parties.

Stuart would be in charge of paying for the parking garage, no more than $30 million, while Martin County and Brightline would split the cost of the building and track work, no more than $15 million each.

All parties said they are applying for grants to cover as much of the cost as possible.

If grants don't come through, City Manager Mike Mortell and Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi told WPTV they are applying for grants to cover that don't believe taxpayers will shoulder any additional cost.

Mortell said if the city had to, it could bond the money to build the station and use recurring revenue over the next five to 10 years to pay those bonds back without increasing taxes or rates based upon incoming revenues.

"Full disclosure, you can't do everything," Mortell said. "We would have to deviate from other choices. Just like anybody's household budget, you can't do everything. You have to pick and choose, but we would not let it affect taxation."

"All of it's taxpayer money, but I don't think it's a situation where we'll have to go to the taxpayers and say, 'We'll need more,'" Ciampi said.

Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi explains how the Brightline station will be funded.
Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi explains how the Brightline station will be funded.

Several leaders from the city, county and region praised the impact the station will have on the Treasure Coast.

"We're a more connected community," U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said.

“There's the economic development opportunities," Stuart Commissioner Troy McDonald, who is also head of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said.

Not everyone was thrilled with the announcement, however.

Resident Katie Jackson told WPTV she wished Fort Pierce was picked for the station.

"Candidly, I came from Fort Lauderdale," Jackson said. "I ran away from the congestion. I am not thrilled with this."

Stuart Commissioner Troy McDonald explains how Stuart has a history of train service.
Stuart Commissioner Troy McDonald explains how Stuart has a history of train service.

"I just think it's so dangerous for kids," mother Tori Ann Panetta added. "It's just easy access for kids right at that park and the traffic around Confusion Corner."

In a one-on-one interview with WPTV, Kronberg said some of the fencing Brightline is installing along miles of track, funded by a Florida Department of Transportation grant, will go up in congested areas of the Treasure Coast, like Confusion Corner, to help prevent people from wandering onto the tracks and getting hit.

"That will be in place within the next year or two," Kronberg said.

In addition, to address concerns about traffic, McDonald said, the city is expecting the station to alleviate traffic, instead of adding to it, by taking more cars off the road.

He also said the station goes back to the city's roots. Until 1968, the passenger rail service helped connect Stuart to other parts of the state.

"So it's actually in our comprehensive plan, citing this location as where the station should go," McDonald said.

Several business owners, including Katey and Etienne Bourgeois of Frazier Creek Brewing & Distilling Company, said they were thrilled about the announcement. The brewery is within walking distance of the new station and hopes all downtown businesses will benefit.

"[Hopefully it will] get people into the downtown area but also through the Creek district," Katie Bourgeois said.

When asked if Brightline would consider adding another stop somewhere else on the Treasure Coast in the future, Kronberg said it's a strong possibility, but for now, the company's focus is on the site in Stuart.