ORLANDO, Fla. — Some of the first tracks are going down at Orlando International Airport for Virgin Trains USA, which will pass through Terminal C as early as 2022.
The first tracks to connect OIA and West Palm Beach were laid earlier this month.
The high-speed rail service will be using more than two million linear feet of rail. All of the steel is sourced from Indiana and made 100% from recycled steel.
The process of laying the tracks will continue almost all the way up to year the train is expected to start service in 2022.
Railroad workers are using two types of techniques to put down the tracks. The tracks at the station will be bolted into the ground to allow the platform to be at the same level of the train floor every time. Other tracks will expand and contract with the weather.
“It will be laid with concrete ties on granite ballast. It’ll move a little bit (for) expansion and contraction of rail in the Florida heat,” said Mike Cegelis, VP of rail infrastructure for Virgin Trains.
Much of the trackwork between OIA and Cocoa will have minimal to no impact to drivers because much of the area is undeveloped.
It’ll be a different story for coastal communities. Cegelis said the track running north and south connecting Cocoa to West Palm Beach will require the upgrade of more than 155 crossings. Some of those crossings now only have one set of tracks. Once railroad workers start making the coastal connection, adding a second set of tracks along the route will require full closures lasting several days.
Once the crossings are upgraded and fully operational, an extra set of tracks means drivers will need to account for a wider area. On average, single track areas will grow from roughly 20 feet to 40 feet, which means drivers will need to be extra cautious once the train starts service because it’ll take longer to get from one side to the other.
“You have 20 seconds from the time the warning lights come on and then 15 seconds before the gate comes down,” Cegelis said.
A construction timeline for when work will start from Cocoa to West Palm Beach is still being finalized, but work is anticipated to start next month.
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