All Aboard Florida’s cross-state passenger rail line took one step forward and one step back Tuesday as the company unveiled its plans for a gleaming 30,000-square-foot station in Fort Lauderdale, but also confirmed that service to Orlando will be delayed.
The rail line has been touted as an express service linking South Florida to Orlando. But All Aboard officials said Wednesday that when trains roll in 2016, they’ll connect only stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The decision to delay the hookup to Orlando came after Gov. Rick Scott asked the Federal Railroad Administration to slow down the approval process for the Central Florida leg of the service.
Scott, who has been a strong supporter of the service, said he wanted to give its critics extra time to register their complaints. A mounting opposition in Central Florida argues that towns there will bear most of the burden of the increased rail service without any of the benefits, since All Aboard’s trains won’t stop between West Palm Beach and Orlando.
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Without service to Orlando, All Aboard will be reduced to a faster, slimmer version of Tri-Rail’s commuter trains, serving only three stops instead of Tri-Rail’s 16, and doing it in 30 minutes less time.
And from a lustrous new Fort Lauderdale station, if the plans released Wednesday are any indication. All Aboard officials unveiled drawings of a T-shaped terminal that will be suspended over the railroad tracks running along Northwest Second Avenue between Broward Boulevard and Northwest Second Street.
The station will have from one to three levels in a stair-step configuration. The five-acre site includes a large public plaza, two large parking lots and — someday — a major collection of shops and restaurants.
“We expect to have commercial development on the upper levels of a parking garage,” said All Aboard president Mike Reininger. “And we expect to have it relatively quickly. But that deal is not in place today.”
The station — located on what now is a collection of empty fields and a small strip shopping center coincidentally named Broward Station — will also require some rejiggering of traffic in the area.
Most significantly, it will close Northwest Second Street at the railroad tracks running along Northwest Second Avenue. Meanwhile, a few blocks of Northwest First Street and Northwest Second Avenue that are now small frontage roads will be upgraded to full-scale streets.
The site was selected from what All Aboard officials said were “five to 10” prospective locations.
“This site has a lot of advantages,” said architect Bernard Zyscovich, whose firm, Zyscovich Associates, designed the station. “It has easy access from the western edge of the city and county, and an iconic location just off Broward Boulevard.”
It was also privately owned, which made its acquisition considerably simpler than that of some sites located on public land.
“When you’re dealing with a private owner, the buyer and seller agree to a price and transact,” said Reininger. “If you’re trying to buy land from the government, it’s a lot more complicated, with multiple requirements.”