Four cities aboard new commuter rail
Written by Lidia Dinkova on June 25, 2014
While a regional funding source for a proposed 85-mile commuter rail line linking Miami to Jupiter hasn’t been pinpointed, plans for locating the funds have moved forward – albeit slightly.
The four Miami-Dade County cities through which the proposed Tri-Rail Coastal Link would run and make stops have passed resolutions expressing their support for the project and commitment to work with planners to develop a financial plan.
Plans are for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link to stop at six locations in East Miami-Dade in Miami, North Miami and North Miami Beach and near Aventura. All four cities passed resolutions expressing support for the project.
The resolutions also include general language that the cities commit to work with project organizers to develop a financial plan for a regional funding source. All of the cities except Aventura included explicit language that the municipality is not committing any city funds for the project through the resolution.
Aventura’s legislation, on the other hand, went farther to say that the city commits to work with project planners “to develop a cost effective system with a sound financial plan” for the regional funding source.
The Tri-Rail Coastal Link is essentially a proposed expansion to the east of the existing Tri-Rail running on the west and linking Miami International Airport to Mangonia Park in Palm Beach County.
The project is being planned by public agencies from all three counties, including the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach metropolitan planning organizations; the Florida Department of Transportation; the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
Preliminary estimates put the project’s capital cost at $700 million to $800 million and the annual operating cost at $33 million to $38 million in 2013 dollars. Plans are for about 50% of the capital cost to come from the federal government and another 25% from the state. The regional funding source would cover the remaining 25% of capital cost and all operations and maintenance.
But pinpointing the regional funding source has been at the heart of some contention.
At issue: How much of the regional funding should come from each of the three counties through which the commuter rail would run. Planners have previously told Miami Today that computing this allocation is not as simple as dividing the regional cost by three. Other factors include the number of stations per county and the number of riders who will come through these stations.
Planners have drafted 11 proposed funding options to cover the regional cost, including a special regional tax as well as a rental-car surcharge that would work in conjunction with annual station fees, records show.
The Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization has vehemently opposed a rental-car surcharge, saying that through this option, Miami-Dade would pay a disproportionate amount of the regional cost.
Ultimately, the choice of regional funding source rests in the hands of elected leaders.
If plans for the commuter rail pan out, the train would run on the same Florida East Coast Railway tracks where All Aboard Florida, the express passenger rail linking Miami to Orlando, is slated to begin service.
Another hurdle for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link project is obtaining an access agreement to use the FEC corridor. The cost for such an agreement would probably be covered by the regional funding source.