Virgin Trains USA announced Tuesday that construction of its highly anticipated expansion from Palm Beach County to Orlando is underway, beginning with preliminary groundwork for a 70-acre maintenance facility and 3.5-mile rail section at Orlando International Airport.

The “Phase 2” expansion, which the company formerly known as Brightline said in statement will be completed and in service by 2022, represents a total private investment of $4 billion.

Five rail construction contractors – Hubbard Construction Co., Wharton-Smith Inc., The Middlesex Corp., Granite Construction Co. and HSR Constructors – will handle the 170-mile extension project linking Virgin’s West Palm Beach Station to a new “state-of-the-art intermodal facility” at the Orlando hub’s new South Terminal.

“Connecting Central and South Florida will bring thousands of jobs today and by modernizing infrastructure, we will strengthen Florida’s economy for decades,” Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard said in a prepared statement, calling the contractors “a world-class construction team.”

“Phase 2” consists of four zones, the company said. Hubbard, Wharton-Smith and Middlesex began construction Tuesday on the first two zones, which encompass the 3.5-mile rail section and maintenance facility at the airport.

Construction on Zones Three and Four “is imminent,” the company said, and includes laying 490,000 ties, driving 2 million spikes and bolts, and transporting 2.35 million tons of granite and limestone by 20,000 railcars.

For Zone Three, which runs roughly 35 miles following the Highway 528 corridor between Orlando International and Cocoa, Virgin contracted with Granite for roughly:

■300,000 cubic yards of excavation.

■5.4 million cubic yards of embankment fill.

■865,000 square feet of mechanically stabilized earth retaining wall.

■100,000 lineal feet of piling.

■18 new bridges, three underpasses, and track and signalization installations.

■60 track miles of Class VII rail construction.

For Zone Four, which will upgrade 129 miles of existing tracks from Class IV to Class VI to allow for service speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, Virgin contracted with HSR Constructors to:

■Move 56 miles of existing track.

■Build 100 miles of new Class VI track within the existing right-of-way.

■Rehabilitate 28 miles of existing sidings.

■Install about 40 new turnouts and crossovers and relocate another 40.

■Relocate fiber duct parallel to the right-of-way.

■Install new signal systems, including a positive train control.

■Construct a second main track.

■Modify or replace surfaces.

■Replace 19 bridges.

■Upgrade crossing signal protection at 155 locations.

The undertaking will generate over 10,000 construction jobs, $2.4 billion in labor income, $6.4 billion in direct economic impact to Florida and $653 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, the company said.

“Miami to Orlando is the ultimate type of corridor that Virgin Trains USA wishes to build,” said Ben Porritt, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Virgin Trains, when asked how critical to Virgin Trains’ solvency the link between South and Central Florida is. “Connecting city pairs that are too close to fly and too far to drive is what defines our business model.”

Source: Miami Today