High Line Moynihan Connector
Brightline repurposes 235 miles of existing tracks to reinvent train travel in Florida. With intercity express passenger service to three new SOM-designed stations, the project offers a model of rail infrastructure for the 21st century.
More than nine million people live between Miami and Orlando. Together with an estimated 100 million annual visitors to the region, drivers make more than 110 million car trips each year between these cities. Florida endures some of the most congested roadways in the United States, and produces nearly one million tons of carbon emissions annually. For decades, there had been virtually no other reasonable transit choices. Brightline has changed that.
The project, in its first phase, leverages the existing tracks of the century-old Florida East Coast corridor to connect Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and construction is underway to link each station to Orlando International Airport and other cities throughout the state. It is the only privately owned, operated, and maintained project of its kind being developed in the United States today, and the first three stations can eliminate more than three million car trips from the region’s roadways each year.
The three stations planned and designed by SOM—located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach—are key portals within the rail system. Envisioned not only as gateways to their respective cities, but also as easily identifiable destinations, the terminals are filled with spaces to shop, eat, and meet. A common material palette, design aesthetic, and planning strategy unite the three facilities. The station locations were selected carefully to create neighborhood anchors within each city’s walkable downtown, where the railroad’s presence would boost further connectivity and convenience with local and regional transit systems.
All three Brightline stations, while not identical, share a common design language. Miami’s “V”-shaped truss structure supports its elevation 50 feet above the street, and in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the passenger concourses rise over the tracks and are held up by a scaled-down V-truss system.
In downtown Miami, SOM responded to a challenging and dense site by elevating the railways for the new MiamiCentral station 50 feet in the air. Retail spaces are vertically layered beneath the soaring tracks, and ample use of glass gives the station a shimmering, lightweight quality. SOM’s innovative solution avoids the high water table underground, opens divided streets to pedestrians and traffic, and allows valuable streetfront real estate to remain leasable. Moreover, this bold architectural gesture creates a landmark terminal—a symbol of a 21st-century Miami.
The elevation of both the 1,000-foot-long station and tracks also reverses a traditional urban form. Whereas most rail infrastructure consists of a headhouse with tracks beneath, MiamiCentral suggests that infrastructure and the city can be one and the same—a symbiotic relationship between infrastructure and architecture.
The location of the old tracks has, historically, been a dividing line between downtown neighborhoods in each city that created disadvantaged areas. The new stations significantly improve the immediate context—serving as a centerpiece at the confluence of multiple neighborhoods. While all three stations solve this equation in different ways, they rely on the same underlying principles. Transit-oriented development in and around each station will eventually include millions of square feet of residential, office, retail, and amenities. The placement of the stations on the west side of the tracks—in traditionally disadvantaged communities—will enhance economic development and social equity.
In Miami, the abandoned tracks and five-block-long site separated the city’s downtown neighborhoods, and within the site’s immediate vicinity, activity was minimal by the evening. By transforming this area through the development of MiamiCentral, and elevating its tracks high above street level, Brightline literally knits the entirety of downtown Miami together, all while serving as a centerpiece for the city’s larger public transit network.
The Fort Lauderdale station features a sequence of stacked glass boxes that spans across NW 2nd Street. Supported by concrete V-braces, the station rises above surrounding buildings, creating a powerful urban focal point. Arriving passengers enter a glass-enclosed ticketing lobby at grade level, ascend an escalator to a bridge over NW 2nd Street, and enter a departures lounge. Throughout this sequence, the glass provides a constant visual connection to the city as well as approaching trains.
The West Palm Beach station links to existing vehicular, trolley, and pedestrian networks, and connects to the Tri-Rail and Amtrak West Palm Beach station. Prominently sited at this nexus of urban activity, the station serves as an infrastructural catalyst for continued reinvestment in the neighborhood. Composed of stacked concrete and glass volumes supported by concrete V-braces, the elevated passenger concourse echoes the materiality and overall geometry of both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale facilities.
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