Florida East Coast Rail line to haul 5% of cargo trucks from Port of Miami
By Zachary Fagenson
The millions governments are spending to breath new life into a Florida East Coast Railway line connecting the Port of Miami to the Hialeah Rail Yard will remove 5% of total roadway cargo traffic and 1.4% of total traffic downtown.
The railway in April picked Pennsylvania-based Atlas Railroad Construction Co. to rebuild the line. Work on the line, which crosses Biscayne Boulevard, is to begin in summer and end in 2012, said Husein Cumber, railway executive vice president for corporate development.
The port and the company have a $22.7 million federal grant, joined by $10.9 million from both the Florida Department of Transportation and the railway as well as $4.8 million from Miami-Dade County to refurbish the dormant route.
Once finished, the line will eliminate need for about 60,000 annual truck trips by FEC between Dodge Island and the rail yard northwest of Miami International Airport.
"Our goal is to put them on a train starting at the Port of Miami," Mr. Cumber said.
That flow would cut only a fraction of truck traffic moving on and off the port daily, and an even smaller share of total vehicles Dodge Island sees weekly.
Work is now underway on the billon-dollar Miami Access Tunnel, twin tunnels connecting the port to Watson Island that once completed could lift a big share of heavy truck traffic off downtown streets.
"According to a traffic analysis study done by Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2009, about 16,000 vehicles travel each day to and from the Port of Miami through downtown streets," Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Rick wrote in an email, "of which 28%, or 4,480, are cargo trucks."
That's 4.16 million total vehicles and 1.16 million trucks moving between the port and downtown annually.
"It is anticipated that most trucks and buses, and between 46% to 80% of the passenger vehicles traveling to and from the port will be diverted to the tunnel," Mr. Rick added.
Though the revamped rail line will only remove a trickle of the total traffic flowing off the port, FEC hopes it'll be crucial piece of a still-developing intermodal system that could make Miami and Florida a cargo capital.
FEC is also spending several million dollars at its Hialeah Rail Yard reconfiguring tracks and adding cranes to prepare for 2014's expansion of the Panama Canal, the port's deep dredging to accommodate the larger vessel and hopefully more cargo.
Overall cost of the work isn't final, but improvements include reconfiguring tracks in the yard for about $15 million, wide-span cranes that can move more containers more efficiently for about $8 million, new gates to monitor truck traffic and a new communication system to coordinate container placements with crane operators.
If all the projects can be coordinated and completed, FEC's rail yard, which annually handles 260,000 cargo containers before passing them onto its 351-mile-long system and to the rest of the nation, could benefit greatly.
"Maybe in 2015 we start to see an increase in ships," said Executive Vice President Joel Haka. "2016 is when it really starts to get heavy."
Read Miami's most anticipated issue of the year online: The Best of Miami. Subscribe now to e-Miami Today.