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Treasure Coast leaders tour railroad tie facility as Brightline prepares for expansion

Posted at 8:42 AM, Oct 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-12 08:58:45-04

The future of Brightline on the Treasure Coast gained ground on Thursday.

City leaders from Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie toured a local facility supplying equipment for the high- speed rail company to get a better understanding of the economic opportunity that could be on the horizon for the area.

The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association hosted the tour at Vossloh, a concrete railroad tie manufacturer in Fort Pierce. It's the top supplier of railroad ties to Brightline and the Florida East Coast railroad.

"So, as we see Brightline expand to Orlando, we're going to see a need for more concrete ties, creating more opportunities -- not just for construction jobs but railroad supply jobs as well," said Matt Bell, Executive Vice President of NRC.

Local leaders like Fort Pierce city commissioner Reginald Sessions are learning how Brightline could add more jobs and potential infrastructure to their own backyard.

"Our city, when you look at what we have in terms of the blue-collar workers and the availability of work, it's slim to none," said Sessions. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when productivity picks up, the demand for this product is going to pick up."

Thursday's tour was a different tone after years of opposition from Treasure Coast residents and leaders.

"Getting this project here was a major obstacle. There was a lot of opposition," Sessions said.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast has opposed Brightline on the Treasure Coast but joined the tour to learn the importance of Vossloh to Florida East Coast and Brightline.

"I think when you're talking about all the modes of transportation whether it's rail, pedestrian or maritime, there has to be a fair and equitable relationship between all of them," said Mast.

Right now, Brightline is considering adding one or more stops in the Treasure Coast.

Leaders in Stuart, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach and Sebastian are being asked to submit possible train station locations.

"We invested some money in an area for a stop here several years ago, and that fell through but the infrastructure is here," said Sessions. "City Hall is working hard to be the chosen one because we'd like to see that stop right here."

Brightline is expected to break ground on the Orlando route within the next year. Currently, Brightline service is available in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.