By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Most everyone who knows District 4 Palm Beach County Commissioner and former Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams knows he’s a big railroad fan.
Former chairman of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), which operates Tri-Rail commuter service, he has also placed his name into the running for the position of SFRTA executive director. The current authority chief, Jack L. Stephens Jr., is retiring at the end of the year, and Commissioner Abrams is term-limited and cannot run again for the county’s governing body.
While Abrams awaits a decision on his bid to head the transit authority, a choice which he says may not come until September, he is currently eying the bright-colored Brightline trains that speed along the Florida East Coast Railroad lines just east of the CSX tracks, the abode of Tri-Rail and Amtrak trains.
Abrams said he wants the high-speed, limited-access Brightline trains to add a stop that would allow Boca Raton and Delray Beach passengers to hop on board. Right now, Brightline stops only in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, but will travel on to Orlando when a new rail line is completed.
“I’ve lobbied them for a train stop to serve Boca and Delray,” said Abrams. “It would be the best idea for them. It will take three years for them to build the line to Orlando.”
“People in Boca and Delray can’t use the Brightline trains,” Abrams said. “Who’s going to drive to Fort Lauderdale to take a train to West Palm Beach?”
The commissioner said he recently drove to Fort Lauderdale to catch a Brightline to Miami because he had an appointment within walking distance of Miami’s Brightline station.
Abrams said Brightline officials are unhurried to deal with his request as they are “focusing on Orlando.” But he promised: “I will continue to lobby for the stop.”
He has a parcel of land in mind for a Boca/Delray station – an area behind the downtown Boca Raton Public Library on NW 2nd Avenue. He said he may get flak from the Junior League of Boca Raton because their Community Gardens are located in that area.
Looking ahead as Tri-Rail and Brightline operate along basically parallel routes, Abrams said,
“We need to sit down with Brightline and Tri-Rail to see how they can interact.”
An idea now in the concept station would create a train station in the Wynwood section of Miami that could be used by both Tri-Rail and Brightline. It raises a number of questions, he said, which have to be answered before connecting service is launched.
Brightline, developed by All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), opened for passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Jan. 13, followed on May 19 by an extension of service south to Miami.
In addition to a spur to Orlando, Brightline has announced intentions to expand to other cities in Florida, most recently, Tampa.