By: Mayor Scott Singer Special to the Boca Newspaper
Boca Raton residents had a great win with the City Council‘s unanimous recent approval of a long-term lease with Brightline, soon to be Virgin Trains (VTUSA), with a unanimous 5-0 vote at the December 10 City Council Meeting. Boca Raton will be the third new station in the company’s south corridor, joining Aventura and PortMiami in connecting the privately-operated, intercity rail system. Current stations and stops include West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
Brightline will fully fund and operate, as a rail-ready connection to the $5 billion, 170-mile intercity train system. Construction is hoped to begin in early 2020 and be completed by early 2021. The City will fund most of the of the design and construction of a 455-car parking garage for train guests and the public. Brightline will be responsible for all the operating, maintenance, and related expenses of the garage, and the parties will split the profits. The city has limited its risks by maintaining ownership of the land and assets and having Brightline assume all of the significant ongoing expenses. Library visitors will have dedicated, covered, parking on the first floor, which will be complimentary.
We pursued an opportunity to be included in this major transportation network and have seized the moment. Once open, these vital transportation upgrades will provide benefits to Boca’s residents and businesses and will advance the long-term future of our thriving, progressive city. The response from residents, employers, our largest institutions, and community partners has been overwhelmingly positive. Phrases like “game changer,” “transformative,” and “winning the lottery”, were all used by the largest group of speakers in favor of an issue to come before the City Council in many years. We want to make sure Boca is not left out of this high-speed rail network that has provided benefits to the cities that have it. A stop in Boca adds connectivity for our residents for trains that are already running throughout our city and brings benefits for our residents, commuting professionals, tourism, our economy, and our presence.
This was also a moment of great personal satisfaction. I approached Brightline CEO’s back in March to pitch them on a station in Boca. For many months, city staff worked hard, and my colleagues and I pushed to make the deal better and better for residents and address neighborhood concerns. Thanks to all of the residents who weighed in, city staff’s great efforts, and my colleagues for sharing a vision about improving transportation and mobility and bringing all of the many benefits of this major opportunity to Boca Raton. The excitement is palpable and this opportunity will bring benefits for decades to Boca Raton.