Metrorail expansion expected to begin soon
By Claudio Mendonça
The Orange Line, a three-project extension of Metrorail both north-south and east-west, is about to get the go-ahead for its first step. The entire expansion is due to be finished in 2014 if funding flows in.
In the first step, rail service is to tie into Metrorail's Earlington Heights station, which extends into the proposed Miami Intermodal Center, just east of Miami International Airport. The Miami Intermodal Center is a multi-modal center linking a rental car facility, TriRail connections, buses and Metrorail.
Then comes the north corridor, from just north of the Martin Luther King Boulevard station on Northwest 75th Street to Northwest 215th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue.
From the intermodal center, the rail connector is also to travel west all the way to Florida International University on Southwest 107th Avenue.
Miami-Dade commissioners have approved an amendment to the county's 2005 Transportation Improvement Program to help finance the Orange Line.
The first installment includes $17.9 million to design the Earlington Heights-MIC stretch. To be built with state and local funds, total cost of the Earlington Heights-MIC 2.6-mile span is estimated at $340 million. The state will provide $100 million and $240 million is to come from revenue from the half-cent tax in the People's Transportation Plan. The Earlington Heights-MIC link is scheduled to be ready in August 2010.
"The state government was kind enough to award us with $100 million," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss, who is also vice chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, responsible for the transportation process in the county.
"We amended a [transportation improvement plan] to include projects in compliance with Metropolitan Planning Organization rules and regulations," he said.
The $340 million will be used for design, land acquisition, track and station construction and to buy eight trains and equipment, said George Navarrette, acting assistant director of Miami-Dade Transit.
Notice to proceed is expected in April.
While the first step is now funded, county commissioners are seeking resources from Congress for the remainder of the Orange Line.
Miami-Dade Transit plans to seek federal funds for half of the required $1.38 billion for the east-west connection. While the Earlington Heights-MIC connection is all financed by state and local government, the other two links will need a 50% federal match.
Expected to be finished in 2012, the $843 million north corridor is expected to run from 215th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue all the way south to the Martin Luther King Metrorail station on Northwest 75th Street.
The east-west connection from the MIC to Florida International University is slated at the conclusion of the Orange Line in September 2014.
"From a finance and construction point of view, the Earlington Heights connector will not affect the MIC," said Ric Katz, a consultant for the Miami Intermodal Center and a public information officer for the Florida Department of Transportation. "Nonetheless, the connector is very important because it becomes another type of service to the station. It brings more connectivity to travelers and it is a big step forward."
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