County's federal agenda bids for a regional hub for Homeland Security, Metrorail expansion aid
By Lou Ortiz
The Department of Homeland Security should open a regional office in Miami-Dade County and fund operations to inspect ship hulls in the Port of Miami.
Those and other requests are part of Miami-Dade County's 2008 federal legislative agenda. It also includes more than $175 million in funding requests for scores of countywide projects.
The agenda lists more than 100 items. One suggests that Homeland Security open a facility here because "our community is a credible target for terrorist activities," the agenda memo dated Dec. 18 says.
The office would "ensure Florida's largest metropolitan area has the mobilization and deployment resources available to coordinate with federal and state officials in the event of a terrorist attack or other crisis."
The counting is also requesting unspecified amount of funding so diving units with the Miami-Dade Police Department Underwater Recovery/Homeland Security can conduct hull searches of vessels entering the port.
The police department is not reimbursed when divers conduct contraband searches at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard, the memo says.
The largest funding requests include $100 million for the Metrorail Orange Line Expansion-North, and $13 million to complete the dredging of the Miami River.
The Metrorail route would begin just north of the Martin Luther King Boulevard station on Northwest 75th Street to Northwest 215th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue.
The Miami River funds would complete the final phase of a $86 million dredging project, which began in September 2004 and is being administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The 5.5-mile project is expected to generate $100 million in business from ships using the river over the next 20 years.
The dredging began at the salinity dam near Miami International Airport and Northwest 36th Street and is projected to be completed in 2008 or 2009, depending on funding.
The dredging will lower the federally navigable channel to 15 feet from depths of 9-11 feet, making it possible for fully loaded ships to use the river at low and high tides.
The Miami River port, with 26 private international shipping terminals, is one of the largest in the state. Ships take cargo to and from the shallow-water ports of the Caribbean.
The river was last dredged in the 1930s.
In the aftermath of the Minneapolis bridge collapse in August, the county is asking the government for unspecified funding to replace the Northwest 17th Avenue bridge, and 12 Venetian causeway bridges that link Miami to Miami Beach.
Other transportation items on the agenda include:
A $5 million request for phase 3 of the Metrorail East/West corridor, from the Miami Intermodal Center to Florida International University.
Funding for 12 new Metromover vehicles; $6 million for new buses and routes; $5 million for transit security and surveillance; and $8 million to build four pedestrian overpasses over US 1 at the 27th Avenue, South Miami, University and Dadeland South Metrorail stations.
A $2 million request for engineering and design for dredging the Miami harbor.
The county also wants $20 million from the government for changes made in the North Terminal at the airport to install a baggage explosives detection system.
To date Miami-Dade has only received $20 million for the project.
Meanwhile, other requests on the agenda include:
$6.25 million for water pipeline in South Miami-Dade.
A $6 million request to improve communications between fire and police agencies in the county, including the coordinating and sharing of information.
A $3.8 million request for Camillus House's new facility at Northwest Seventh Avenue and 16th St. The facility helps the homeless.
Unspecified funding to extend two runways at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport to accommodate most mid-sized jets.
A $500,000 request to conduct a water quality study of Biscayne Bay.
The county also is asking Congress to extend a moratorium, which expires in May, that would limit federal Medicaid and Medicare payments to public health providers.
The county memo says the proposed regulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would cost Jackson Health System millions of dollars.
A new federal rule imposed in 2006 that requires verification of citizenship and Medicaid eligibility has cost the county system $3 million thus far, the memo says.
The county is also urging the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant temporary protected status, in part, to Haitians and Central Americans because political instability there threatens their safe return, the memo says.
In addition, the county is advocating a Marshall Plan for Haiti to jump start its economy.