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Virgin Trains breaks ground on West Palm-to-Orlando extension

Published May 24

Virgin Trains USA announced this week construction on its West Palm Beach to Orlando extension had officially begun on what it projects will be a four-year undertaking.

The $4 billion project calls for 170 miles of new track. The company, formerly known as Brightline, projects that by 2022, it will have generated more than 10,000 jobs and more than $650 million in federal, state and local tax revenue.

Digging formally began this week outside Orlando International Airport, where a new connection hub will shuttle passengers from the train's terminus to airline gates.

READ MORE: Brightline-Virgin proposal for Tampa-to-Orlando rail service clears key state hurdle

The announcement Tuesday follows years of delays, debate and negotiation over safety, noise and traffic concerns. The company ultimately plans to build an Orlando to Tampa leg.

Virgin also has named the five contractors who will handle the laying of 490,000 ties and transporting 2.35 million tons of granite and limestone by 20,000 rail cars, and the hammering of two million spikes and bolts over the next 36 months.

They are Sanford-based Wharton-Smith Inc., Winter Park-based Hubbard Construction Company, Massachusetts-based Middlesex Corporation, California-based Granite, and a consortium of rail contractors called HSR Constructors.

"Connecting Central and South Florida will bring thousands of jobs today and by modernizing infrastructure, we will strengthen Florida's economy for decades," said Patrick Goddard, president of Virgin Trains USA, in a statement.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony is slated for the coming weeks.

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