When will express rail service start in Florida? The owners have a date — sort of

There’s progress in a privately owned rail system’s long-haul effort to launch express rail service linking Miami and Orlando.

The federal Department of Transportation has issued final environmental approval, clearing the way for the company, Brightline, to launch South Florida service in the first quarter of 2018, the company said in a news release.

Service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach was originally slated to begin last summer, a date that repeatedly has been pushed back.

The privately funded effort promises 30-minute express train service between downtown Miami and downtown Fort Lauderdale, with an additional 30 minutes to West Palm Beach.

The federal approval also allows the company to begin construction on the stretch between West Palm and Orlando early next year. Travelers will be able to go from Miami to Orlando in three hours.

Ticket prices have not yet been set.

Brightline bills itself as “the new benchmark for travel by train in America with express inter-city passenger rail service connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with future service to Orlando.” Brightline states that it is the only privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States.