Resembling a misplaced aircraft hanger, a 600-foot-long curved concrete structure is taking shape off State Road 528 near Canaveral Groves — where a newly emerged dirt ridge now towers above the nearby asphalt.
Brightline is building a 30-foot-tall “fly-under” train tunnel at a large construction site just east of Interstate 95. This structure will let future passenger trains cross between the north and south sides of the Beachline Expressway — by traveling beneath vehicle traffic, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
“When you drive by, you’ll see the casting yard. And you’ll see some panels stacked up,” said Matt Carroll, assistant project manager.
“What those panels are doing is, they’re curing. They’re getting their compressive strength in order to then be flown up into the air by the cranes. And they set those panels,” Carroll said.
The 45-foot-wide tubular train tunnel is part of Brightline’s $4.2 billion extension, which remains under construction between West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport.
Scheduled for completion by the end of 2022, this 170-mile rail route will send passenger trains speeding across the Space Coast and Treasure Coast. Brightline bills itself as the country’s first privately funded higher-speed rail company in more than a century.
The tunnel will be composed of 121 curved concrete panels, which are cast on-site.
In tandem, workers are using 750,000 cubic yards of fill dirt to lift the future elevation of SR 528 about 35 feet across the vicinity. The tunnel will be covered with dirt, and crews will rebuild the highway atop it.
“We’re taking traffic up 35 feet and flying traffic over the top of our rail, instead of going over it with a bridge,” Carroll said.
He said the newly elevated section of SR 528 should be finished by year’s end.
“What you see out there right now, eastbound and westbound (motorists) have been pushed all the way to the north, outside the footprint of the tunnel. And that allows us to build it in one phase,” Carroll said.
“We went from three phases of construction — with multiple traffic shifts and detours — to a single phase of construction,” he said.
Crews excavated the 750,000 cubic yards of dirt from the north side of SR 528, then transported the fill over the road via conveyor belt. Carroll said the conveyor eliminated the need for 68,000 dump-truck trips.
“This is another example of innovation that we’re using on this project to efficiently and effectively bring high-speed rail to Central Florida,” Brightline spokesperson Katie Mitzner said.
Carroll said the borrow pit north of the highway will become a lake for a future development.
Last month, Brightline officials invited Central Florida politicians and VIPs to a celebratory event at the 154,500-square-foot train maintenance facility under construction near Orlando International Airport. The event marked Brightline passing the 50% construction completion mark on its Orlando expansion project.
More than 1,000 workers are building Brightline’s Orlando-to-South Florida extension, which includes 48 bridges and upgrades at 155 railroad crossings. Mitzner said 40 to 50 workers report to the train tunnel-borrow pit construction site per day.
This spring, workers used large hydraulic jacks to push a precast train underpass beneath SR 528 near U.S. 1 in Cocoa. Brightline officials said they were the first in North America to use this “box-jacking” strategy beneath a highway that remained open to traffic.
The Orlando extension will use 450,000 concrete ties manufactured in Fort Pierce, 2.35 million tons of granite and limestone transported by 20,000 railcars, and 2 million spikes and bolts.