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Front Page » Top Stories » Miamidade County Commission Vents Plenty Gives Nod To Rail Cars Buy

Miamidade County Commission Vents Plenty Gives Nod To Rail Cars Buy

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Written by on March 20, 2008

By Lou Ortiz
After heated debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission succumbed to a staff proposal to replace Metrorail’s aging fleet of railcars for nearly a half-billion dollars.

In a scene reminiscent of past controversies, commissioners railed against and criticized county staffers before approving their proposal Tuesday on an 8-2 vote.

The railcars issue is a matter the commission thought it settled in 2004 when commissioners approved rehabbing 136 railcars for $188 million. The commission acted after the transit agency failed to overhaul the 1984 fleet, and after $5.4 million in consultant fees, to come up with the rehab plan.

But the project idled. Bids for the work exceeded staff estimates, climbing to $300 million by 2006. After another study last year, totaling $3.5 million, the staff proposed Tuesday that Miami-Dade buy new railcars for $401 million, a price that is likely to increase as bids are prepared and submitted over the next one to two years.

County staffers defended their latest proposal, saying it would include a total of 198 railcars — 62 for the anticipated Metrorail expansion — and that it would result in future savings of $40 million to $140 million. New cars have a life of 30 years vs. 20 years for refurbished cars.

Commissioner Javier D. Souto singled out County Manager George Burgess for criticism. "There’s a great concern about how things run in this [county] building," Mr. Souto said. "There have been a lot of bad decisions."

But Mr. Burgess said he had the transit agency and others go over the proposal many times to ensure it was best for the county. "It’s a very expensive recommendation," he said, but it’s "more cost effective for the county."

Commissioner Katy Sorenson summed it up: "This is a bitter pill we’ll have to swallow."

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