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Front Page » Top Stories » Miamidades Metrorail Derailed From 10year Transit Plan

Miamidades Metrorail Derailed From 10year Transit Plan

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Written by on October 22, 2009

By Risa Polansky
Long-promised northern and east/west Metrorail extensions don’t appear in Miami-Dade County’s proposed 10-year transit development plan.

Instead, the plan references bus rapid transit.

The absence caught Barbara Jordan’s attention at a committee meeting last week.

Though it’s become clear more Metrorail may not make fiscal sense, the commission never voted to defer or kill the north corridor project — so where is it?, asked Ms. Jordan, chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Roads Committee and vocal proponent for the northern transit line.

Transit Director Harpal Kapoor confirmed the Metrorail extensions are missing from the nearly 400-page document and noted that "there are $1 billion [in] unfunded projects we have."

Ysela Llort, assistant county manager in charge of transportation, assured commissioners the north and east/west corridors are still priorities.

"This is not a 30-year plan. This is a 10-year plan. So what’s listed in here… [are] the options that we’ve talked about being a precursor of any heavy rail," such as bus rapid transit, she said. "No way has it been forgotten. What we’re putting in here is what can be funded in the first sequence."

Commissioners last year began acknowledging that building more heavy rail might be financially unrealistic and mulling bus rapid transit or light rail in the place of long-desired Metrorail links.

Before that, the north corridor, a planned 9.5-mile extension of Metrorail along Northwest 27th Avenue, was on track to compete for federal funds until the Federal Transit Administration downgraded it, citing doubts the county could afford to build new systems and continue supporting existing ones.

Since, officials have been reevaluating plans.

But no one’s killed the north corridor, Ms. Jordan said.

She said she understands buses or light rail may be more sensible but questioned "the fact that it is not included under any category even in a 10-year process…"

Mr. Kapoor said the county’s longer-range plan still includes the project.

And Ms. Llort promised "it’s not a forgotten corridor in any way."

Bus rapid transit included in the 10-year outlook is just the beginning, she said. As funding permits, she said, updates will include "more intense transit."

After projections showing billions in deficits over the next few decades rocked the transit department last year, commissioners raised fares, agreed to mingle voter-approved surtaxes for expansions with the general operating budget and cut expectations for new projects and service.

Now, the 10-year operating budget is balanced — "achieved by a combination of cost efficiencies and service restructuring in Metrobus; an avoidance of any major service expansion except for the [now under construction] MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail connector service; and aggressive use of available local funding sources… during the second five years of the [plan]," the document says.

The capital budget, also balanced, relies on "substantial borrowing… as well as reductions and even eliminations of planned capital projects that had been included in previous [plans]."