County looks at trails under Florida Power and Light lines
Written by Jesse Scheckner on August 7, 2018
Miami-Dade County is considering developing park space under Florida Power and Light (FPL) transmission lines and easements as bicycle trails and walking paths.
Commissioners in July accepted a report from Mayor Carlos Giménez detailing how the county could best work with the power company to create a 1.76-mile trail system under FPL lines on land managed by the county’s parks department.
The report didn’t specify future development locations.
“Across the country, rapid growth and development of our urban areas continue while the public demands trail networks that access parks, public lands and communities,” Mr. Giménez wrote in a July 13 memo. “These utilities can provide solutions to improve the aesthetic value, qualify of life and economic vitality for communities to traverse.”
Candidate lands for trail development, according to Mr. Giménez, include properties owned by FPL and county rights-of-way near other greenways, trails, parks and libraries based on transportation, social, environmental and economic sustainability criteria as detailed in the Miami-Dade County Greenways and Trails Prioritization Plan.
The two main funding sources available to the county’s parks and open spaces department to connect FPL-owned lands with county rights-of-way for bicycle and walking trails are state-funded Transportation Alternative Program funds and general obligation bonds under the county’s Building Better Communities program.
Miami-Dade Parks can also apply for Shared-Use Non-motorized (SUN) Trail Network and State of Florida Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program funds.
To maximize the possibility of success for such a project and minimize operation and maintenance impacts to trail-managing entities and FPL, Mr. Giménez recommended establishing:
A strong relationship between FPL and the public entity managing the trail.
A clear understanding of the safety, economic, liability and maintenance concerns by all parties, including adjacent neighborhoods.
License agreements with FPL addressing the county’s construction activities, insurance requirements, financial legal responsibilities and types of permitted uses.
Funding solutions for trail development, maintenance and operation.
Operation and maintenance schedules.
Design standards for safety and maintenance.
Informal neighborhood patrols.
About 29,806 utility easement acres are partially owned by the county, FPL, South Florida Water Management District and private entities including single-family homeowners, according to the memo.
Examples of successful shared-use trails within utility corridors listed included the Pinellas Trail Extension in Pinellas County, the Natural Coast Trail in North-Central Florida and the Cross Seminole Trail Connector in Seminole County.
Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces recently negotiated with FPL to develop a biking and walking trail on the FPL Linear Park east of Northwest 137th Avenue from Southwest Sixth Street to Northwest 12th Avenue, which commissioners approved in July 2017.
The parks department currently lacks sufficient staffing and resources to develop the trail, Mr. Giménez wrote, adding that it will continue to explore funding opportunities.
Early last month, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) ordered a budget to study a project to connect non-motorized bicycle and pedestrian paths with its developing Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan corridors.
If the project were to advance, it could connect several major public-private trails in a SMART Trails network, including the Underline, a 10-mile linear park and urban trail below the Metrorail running from the Miami River north of the Brickell Metrorail station to the Dadeland Metrorail station; the Ludlam Trail, a 6.2-mile linear greenway running parallel to and west of Ludlam Road from near Northwest Seventh to Southwest 80th streets; and the Miami River Greenway, a 5.5-mile public pathway running west from Biscayne Bay to Miami International Airport.
In late June, county commissioners unanimously OK’d purchasing the Ludlam Trail, a discontinued railroad corridor, from Brightline owner Florida East Coast Industries.
Once developed, the trail will connect more than 34,000 people within a half-mile radius to five greenways, five schools, four parks and two transit hubs.
“Linking first- and last-mile solutions is critical,” Friends of the Underline board member Steven Wernick told commissioners. “It’s for people of all ages, abilities, modes of transportation and, especially in my heart, kids – and that’s our future, of course.”