Exclusive: An inside look at Brightline’s safety operations as high-speed testing begins

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Brightline is speeding up test runs of its high-speed rail service in Brevard County.


Trains reached speeds as high as 79 miles per hour Thursday, much higher than the 15 miles per hour they reached on earlier test runs.

SEE: Brightline test train rolls through Brevard County

Brightline is performing the tests in preparation for its new route connecting Orlando to

Miami. It’s a trip that’s expected to take roughly three hours.

“To be where we are today…is nothing short of Herculean,” Brightline President Patrick Goddard said. “We can see the finish line here, so we’re going full-speed ahead. "

Brightline is already testing its trains at their top speed of 110 miles per hour in Martin and St. Lucie Counties. Goddard says it’s the fastest any train has ever run in the state of Florida.

The higher speeds bring an increased emphasis on safety. Goddard says they’re working closely with law enforcement, adding new equipment, and even deploying their own safety team to keep people off the tracks at the 50 crossings they’ll have in parts of Brevard County.

“What we have experienced is people taking their lives into their own hands just to save themselves 30 seconds,” Goddard said.

However, Goddard says the design of the tracks won’t allow as many of those opportunities.

READ: Brightline focused on safety while working to connect Orlando to South Florida

“From Cocoa into Orlando, we’re running alongside the 528. There are no grade crossings,” Goddard explained. “It’s all highway…that’s what allows us to travel at 125 miles an hour.

Those trains will also be tracked at Brightline’s Operations Center housed in their Miami station. There, they monitor every aspect of travel on the tracks.

“We’ve got eyes everywhere and radios that allow us to hear what’s happening in the stations, what’s happening on the rail corridor, and we have cameras all through the property,” Brightline Vice President of Operations Michael Lefevre said.

“Ultimately the goal will be to have this connectivity to SunRail,” Goddard added. “Where people can get off a Brightline train and get on a SunRail train and get to where they need to get.”

That includes places like International Drive, The Orange County Convention Center, and theme parks.

To make it possible, they’ll need funding. Brightline officials are among those hoping Orange County voters pass a penny sales tax increase next week to partially help pay for that and other major transportation projects.

“I’m optimistic that the community sees this as a great solution for them, and that it does pass,” Goddard said.

READ: Data shows the Florida gas tax holiday didn’t deliver, but prices are still rising anyway

Brightline has also collected federal grants for additional safety and construction work.

Once it’s running, a trip from Orlando to Miami is expected to cost about 80 to 100 dollars one-way. Rides are scheduled to start in 2023.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.