Transportation Agency To Seek Rail Funds From Miami International Airport
Written by Candice Ventra on September 28, 2000
By Candice Ventra
As plans to connect Metrorail to Miami International Airport advance, transportation planners want to know if the Miami-Dade Aviation Department can share in the project’s $180 million cost.
County officials have been asked to have an answer next month.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees transportation planning for the county, met late last week to discuss, among other things, connecting the Earlington Heights Metrorail station to the Miami Intermodal Center, to be built on airport grounds. No airport officials were at the meeting.
With the help of a $164 million loan from the Florida Department of Transportation, the center a transportation hub would include a rental car depot to be completed by 2004.
The airport’s ongoing $5.4 billion capital improvement program includes the intermodal center, new concourses and terminals, and runway enhancements, among other things.
Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr., who is also one of the transportation planning organization’s board members, said since the rail would connect to the center, it is as much an aviation improvement as it is transportation.
He asked the organization’s staff to find out if the work could be categorized, at least in part, as an aviation project.
"It is important that we don’t make a determination that this is a transit project until we are certain that it can’t be an aviation department project," Mr. Teele said referring to the possibility of using aviation funds to help pay for the rail extension.
A spokesman said Tuesday the aviation department was not aware of Mr. Teele’s request. "To the best of my knowledge we have not been informed about it," said Marc Henderson.
The plan is to connect a rail line west from the Earlington Heights Metrorail station at 41st Street between Northwest 22nd Avenue and 17th Street to the proposed intermodal center, which would be built almost in the center of the airport complex.
Although the cost of the rail project is estimated at $180 million, no source of the money has been secured, said Manny Palmeiro, Miami-Dade Transit Agency spokesperson. He said once funding is firm the project could begin but officials expect it to start between 2007 and 2009.
Mr. Palmeiro said federal funds usually finance close to 80% of such massive transportation projects.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler said she thinks considering the airport as a funding source is a good idea but might not fly with aviation officials.
"This is clearly something that is aviation-related," she said.
Mr. Teele said the project would benefit airport staff the most.
"The biggest user of this system would be airline employees," Mr. Teele said.
Officials have said the connector would also benefit the average county resident and members of the business community. The Metrorail does not now connect to the airport.
County Manager Merrett Stierheim said he would ask staff to see if the project could be considered an aviation issue. Staff are to have an update at the next Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting Oct. 19 in county commission chambers.