Port Switch Rail Links On A Fast Track
Written by Risa Polansky on August 13, 2009
By Risa Polansky
With plans for $1 billion-plus tunnels to the Port of Miami still rolling ahead, port and railway officials are also seeking federal funding for a direct rail connection between the seaport and a new inland port in Hialeah to improve cargo efficiency and thin downtown truck traffic.
The plan: restore the port’s bridge and on-port rail infrastructure, upgrade a now-underutilized Florida East Coast Railway branch to allow for faster trains and quieter operations, and use it to run cargo between the port and the railway’s existing Hialeah yard, which would be transformed into an inland port.
Port and railway officials are gunning for "tens of millions" of federal stimulus dollars to get the rail project on track, Port Director Bill Johnson said.
The application is still in the works and due Sept. 15.
Railway President David Rohal estimates a $30 million price tag, all told.
Each train would eliminate 100 to 200 trucks from downtown streets, estimates say.
The Hialeah port would offer easier truck access to the West Dade warehouse district.
Some, including Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez as recently as last week, have proposed rail as an alternative to the long-planned tunnel, designed to redirect trucks via underwater tubes.
Mr. Johnson says both are needed to improve port access and freight capacity — especially in five years when a Panama Canal expansion is complete, making way for some of the world’s largest cargo ships.
"It isn’t either/or," he said.
The rail plan also takes into account potential passenger transit along the corridor down the line.
The idea is to move the cargo track to one side, Mr. Rohal said, leaving space for future passenger lines.