County forced to redraw plan for port-FIU rail link
By Shannon Pettypiece
Plans for an east-west Metrorail extension between the Port of Miami and Florida International University in southwestern Miami-Dade County must be redesigned around structures built since the path was planned in 1998, adding delays and design costs.
The extension planned to connect the existing Metrorail line to the chosen alternative also means the $1 billion Miami Intermodal Center, a Grand Central Station-type facility to rise near Miami International Airport, must be redesigned to accommodate Metrorail entering from the north instead of the east, said Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Jose-Luis Mesa.
"Now, the (intermodal center) has to accommodate a line coming from a different direction," Mr. Mesa said.
Last week, the Metropolitan Planning Organization selected a route that would force riders to transfer trains at the proposed hub. Members of the organization board said the selected route is cheapest and will not affect the surrounding community as much as one that would allow a transfer-free connection between downtown Miami and FIU.
But plans to extend Metrorail farther east are also in limbo because the $1.6 billion connector between the Palmetto Expressway and the Port of Miami must be redesigned, Mr. Mesa said.
The route mapped out in 1998 to extend the existing Metrorail line to the port via a tunnel is no longer possible because new buildings - the downtown Miami federal courthouse, a hotel in the Blue Lagoon region and three apartment buildings - now lie in the proposed pathway, said Bill Anido, district manager for consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.
"The plan for a tunnel to the port can no longer be done because the federal courthouse has been constructed," Mr. Mesa said.
It will be 10 to 12 years before the tunnel gets under way and the county expects to begin redrawing the route soon, Mr. Mesa said.
Plans for an extension west of Miami International Airport to FIU are on hold indefinitely until the county can reassess whether that route is still feasible with construction going on in the region.
"Now we have to find another way. There need to be updates along the corridor to make sure any right of way needed can be done," Mr. Mesa said. "That project is not being worked on right now. The original study does not have any active environmental work being done."
Mr. Mesa said it could be 15 to 17 years before the FIU extension is running.
Although plans for an extension to FIU were approved in 1998, the county didn't have money to acquire the land necessary for new development along the route of the corridor.
Having to redo the plan will require hiring a consultant for about a year, Mr. Anido said.
"It may require a lot of work to look into new alignment option," Mr. Anido said. "There have been several fairly substantial changes along the alignment."