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Front Page » Transportation » We might get 6 commuter rail stations

We might get 6 commuter rail stations

Written by on April 30, 2014

Eastern Miami-Dade might become home to six train stations if work on a commuter rail chugs forward and Tri-Rail Coastal Link begins service in 2020 as planned.  

One of the stations would be in downtown Miami, and it would be the joint southernmost station for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link and All Aboard Florida, an express passenger rail that would link Miami to Orlando. All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Coral Gables-headquartered Florida East Coast Industries LLC, promises travel time of about three hours.

Tri-Rail Coastal Link planners want the commuter rail to run on the same corridor and link Miami to Jupiter. The commuter line would have 25 stops on the Florida East Coast Industries corridor and connect to the existing Tri-Rail running on CSX tracks to the west.

While exact locations haven’t been pinpointed, the other five Miami-Dade Tri-Rail Coastal Link stations would be in the vicinity of 36th Street in Midtown, 79th Street in Miami, 125th Street in North Miami, 163rd Street in North Miami Beach, and Aventura Boulevard just outside the City of Aventura, according to Amie Goddeau, mobility development manager at the Planning and Environmental Management Office at the Florida Department of Transportation – District 4.

In Miami-Dade, the tracks are west of Biscayne Boulevard.

“There’s been years and years of work with the cities’ planning staff to site these locations,” Ms. Goddeau said.

When it comes to buying land for the stations, and building and operating them, there is an array of options. Among them: a station could be built on municipal- or county-owned land, Tri-Rail Coastal Link could buy private land and build a station, or a joint venture could be formed between Tri-Rail Coastal Link and a business or the commuter rail line and a local government.

“Each station is unique,” Ms. Goddeau said. “What would be wonderful to happen is to have developers come in and see the economic impact a station would have and… they build this Taj Mahal around it that can” reap the benefits of the station’s foot traffic.

SunRail, a nearly complete commuter line in the Greater Orlando area, for example, includes a series of agreements between the Florida Department of Transportation and Orange, Volusia and Seminole counties as well as the City of Orlando that say that after the department’s funding period ends, the local governments would maintain the stations within their boundaries, according to the project’s website.

The up to $800 million estimated as the Tri-Rail Coastal Link’s capital cost includes the cost of buying land and building a basic station structure, and the up to $38 million estimated as the annual operating budget includes maintenance of the stations, Ms. Goddeau said.

But only after a National Environmental Policy Act study examining the commuter line’s natural and physical impacts is completed would planners move toward right-of-way acquisitions.

“It’s a tough position to be in when you are developing a project and you are talking with developers who have vacant land,” Ms. Goddeau said. “Some developers don’t have time to wait until this document is cleared.”

While a station’s platform may be within the Florida East Coast corridor, the rest of the station would extend onto acquired land.

The Tri-Rail Coastal Link project hinges on an agreement between the commuter line and All Aboard Florida that would allow the commuter rail access to the Florida East Coast corridor. Three stations – downtown Miami, downtown Fort Lauderdale and downtown West Palm Beach – could be joint stops for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link and All Aboard Florida. That makes planning these sites complicated.

“When you have a bunch of things happening at one site, there’s a bunch of things you need to plan for,” Ms. Goddeau said.

All Aboard Florida passengers, for example, would have to go through a secured boarding area, while Tri-Rail Coastal Link passengers wouldn’t have to go through a secured boarding area.

“So some of the access points would be different,” she added.

The Tri-Rail Coastal Link’s fruition also depends on deciding the regional funding source that would fund 25% of the capital and the entire operating cost.

Tri-Rail Coastal Link has reached out to Miami, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Aventura officials in hopes that the municipalities will either pass a resolution or issue a formal letter to the Metropolitan Planning Organization saying that they’re aware a regional funding source is needed for the project, according to Ric Katz, public affairs manager for the project.

Preliminary plans are that 50% of the capital cost would be federally funded and that another 25% would be state funded.

In Broward and Palm Beach counties, the Tri-Rail Coastal Link could stop in Hallandale Beach, downtown Hollywood, Wilton Manors, downtown Pompano Beach, downtown Boca Raton, downtown Delray Beach Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, among other locations.