Suit Looms Over Trirail Service Cuts
Written by Risa Polansky on May 8, 2008
By Risa Polansky
If the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is forced to cut trains, the authority — and even the state, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — could face a $275 million lawsuit by the Federal Transit Administration, Tri-Rail officials fear.
A potential $18 million loss of operating funds from the three counties and the state would mean dropping from 50 daily trains to 20 and eliminating weekend service, said Joseph Giulietti, authority executive director.
But Tri-Rail agreed to run 48 trains a day in accepting a $275 million transit administration grant toward its $338 million double-tracking project, completed in 2006.
"We can absorb cuts up to the point that we don’t drop below 48 trains," he said.
A broken promise means the transit administration could sue — and also target the state and counties, Tri-Rail officials say.
A transit administration spokesman said only that if any changes affect a grant agreement, the "FTA will evaluate the changes at that time."
Legislative efforts to attain funding failed during this month’s session.
Tri-Rail’s remaining hope lies with commissioners in each county.
A Palm Beach administrator recommends slicing the county’s contribution to the service — meaning Miami-Dade and Broward would do the same, reducing also a state match — but it’s up to commissioners.
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, chair also of the transportation authority, said in a statement that "we are focused on going forward and positive that a funding mechanism will be identified to secure the service."
Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz said he was unaware of a potential suit but noted the county is cutting even its own transit services.
"If we’re cutting routes locally," he said, "where are going to get the funding for Tri-Rail?"