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Front Page » Transportation » Downtown rail link would cost $68 million

Downtown rail link would cost $68 million

Written by on December 3, 2014
Downtown rail link would cost $68 million

For an existing passenger train to eventually link to downtown Miami, $68 million in public funding is needed.

For years, South Florida transit agencies have wanted Tri-Rail, which now connects the western parts of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, to begin running in the eastern parts of the tri-county area.

The plan is for Tri-Rail’s southernmost stop to be in downtown Miami at a soon-to-exist station that a private firm is already building.

All Aboard Florida, a subsidiary of Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, is building the downtown station where its own Miami-Orlando express passenger trains are to stop.

But if Tri-Rail trains are to pull into All Aboard’s station, the public would have to pay for the infrastructure Tri-Rail would need.

“It’s platforms, tracks, special systems. It’s all capital infrastructure items that [pertain] fully and solely to the Tri-Rail activities in that development,” said Jack Stephens, executive director of Tri-Rail’s operating agency, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

Backers of a Tri-Rail expansion say this is a one-time opportunity to have the trains pull into downtown Miami – once All Aboard’s station is built, it can’t add infrastructure to accommodate Tri-Rail.

Since All Aboard Florida is ready to roll – parking lots where the station is to rise have been cordoned off – that leaves little time to find the $68 million.

“If we can figure out some way of coming up with those dollars, then All Aboard Florida has suggested that they can move forward now, built it in there and then we will get that repaid to All Aboard Florida later,” Mr. Stephens said.

A possible funding source is the area’s community redevelopment agency, “if they provide a portion of the increased tax revenues that All Aboard Florida is bringing back to us and then we would reimburse All Aboard Florida,” Mr. Stephens said.

The $68 million is far less than what the public funding would have to be if All Aboard Florida weren’t laying the foundation, backers of Tri-Rail expansion say.

“We have that 2004 study that analyzed all the rail convertibility. With existing right-of-way and tracks already there or to be added by the private sector, that’s very low on capital costs,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez.

Tri-Rail expansion into the eastern parts of the tri-county is a long way off. But there’s an opportunity for Tri-Rail to begin running in east Miami-Dade by 2016.

A track upgrade by the state transportation department would allow Tri-Rail trains running on CSX tracks in Miami-Dade to transfer to FEC tracks at Northwest 71st Street.

“This can give a one-seat ride to downtown Miami for users coming as far north as Palm Beach County,” Mr. Stephens said.

Then again, that connection hinges on the $68 million in public funds still needed for Tri-Rail infrastructure at All Aboard’s downtown station.

“I’m pushing everybody that we need to do this. If we don’t do it now, that connection to downtown Miami would be forever precluded,” Mr. Stephens said. “I think we would regret it long-term if we missed it.”

28 Responses to Downtown rail link would cost $68 million

  1. Donna R. Dickerson

    December 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

    First it was $44 million, now its $68 million. It cost a lot to pay people off! Tying the Tri Rail station into AAF’s station will be a huge mistake. If AAF falters the taxpayers will forever be on the hook to prop it up to keep the station open. How many billions will that cost over time?

  2. DC Copeland

    December 3, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Hopefully “those in charge” will find a way to make this happen. Not to connect Tri-Rail downtown would be a lost opportunity of the highest magnitude.

  3. Eric

    December 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    We must invest the in transportation. Our roads are clogged and will only get worse. There is no way for our roads and highways to keep up with population growth. Not investing now will result in much larger investments in the future. We won’t be an inviting or competitive tourist destination if one cannot get around.

    • mark

      December 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      That our “roads are clogged and will only get worse” has nothing to do with a growing population. Our roads are clogged because developers pushed for and the County approved the building of cul-de-sacs and backstreets that lead nowhere, so that we have thousands of streets that empty like a funnel into a few main thoroughfares. If there’s an accident or backup of any sort you have to sit there because there are no alternate roads, any side street you take will lead you to a maze of go-nowhere streets and lead back to the clogged main road.

      Even in old neighborhoods that were built when cities where better planned, the streets are being blocked off because residents want their streets to be private roads. The County has mismanaged the road system just like everything else it touches. You can be sure this rail project will be mismanaged too and another drain on the taxpayers.

  4. Adam

    December 3, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Coastal Link Tri Rail will be running on the FEC tracks, same as AAF. There aren’t other station options. Either it goes to the AAF site or it doesn’t go downtown.

    $68M sounds like a lot, but it is $25 per person in Miami dade. We rarely see how much taxpayers are paying for street widening, new stoplights, interchanges, etc. but it is way more than this little drop in the bucket.

  5. marc

    December 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    This needs to happen no matter the cost now, it’ll only get more expensive. A Tri Rail terminus at government center makes too much sense. No more transferring in Hialeah to then wait for the Metrorail in order to get in downtown Miami.

  6. Quinn Kasal

    December 3, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    This is an absolute no-brainer. Tri-Rail isn’t fulfilling near its full potential until it runs into east Miami-Dade and directly into downtown. AAF, Tri-Rail, Metrorail, Metromover, and Metrobus all connecting in one transformational downtown transit center. All we need is $68 million. The above comments are correct that if Tri-Rail doesn’t do this now, it would take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to do this in the future, if it’s even possible. And it won’t be as effective if they can’t do it in Gov Center.

  7. Kevin

    December 4, 2014 at 12:20 am

    We need this! We absolutely need Tri-Rail to go to the heart of the city. It’s ridiculous it doesn’t already.

  8. Ben Grimm

    December 4, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Duplication of services = waste of money. Tri-Rail is a separate system which we’ve spent on considerably when the county built the Tri-Rail Station and Airport Link. Both of these expensive expansions to Metrorail connects MIA with downtown Miami. Spending $68 million to connect Tri-Rail directly is duplicating services AND increases operating cost for existing facilities.

    Tri-Rail will also need to expand to operate on two separate lines. I can’t see CSX and FEC agreeing to this. It takes business away from CSX. It increases traffic on FEC’s lines which is now running freight trains to the port.

    This can’t be a plan developed by planners and engineers as they would have seen the negatives overwhelm the positives.

    • Quinn Kasal

      December 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      CSX will still have the original Tri-Rail line on its tracks. FEC’s trains don’t run to the port frequently enough to make that an issue. And of course operating cost will go up but the new route connecting the downtowns of Miami, FtL and WPB should also generate upwards of 20,000 passengers per day which is even better than the original line.

      • Ben Grimm

        December 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

        FEC is already gearing up for a passenger line between Miami and Jupiter. Tri-Rail will get in the way of that. Tri-Rail will also be looking for public monies for that expansion. Still a bad idea.

    • mark

      December 4, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Absolutely right, the Metrorail already connects to Tri-rail.

      • Quinn Kasal

        December 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

        True, but it’s a hassle and people aren’t taking advantage of the connection. It’s an added 25 minutes to the commute. Of Tri-Rail’s 15,000 daily passenger trips, maybe 2,500 are actually connecting with Metrorail (that Metrorail station’s ridership numbers aren’t good at all). Well over 100,000 people work in Downtown Miami and many of them come from along the FEC corridor. There’s improvement to be made. If the original Tri-Rail was the solution, I ask you to look at I-95 in rush hour.

        • Ben Grimm

          December 11, 2014 at 11:38 am

          If your numbers are correct, 2,500 passengers is not a reason to spend more money connecting Tri-Rail. Especially when FEC is working on a longer passenger route for their corridor. A lot of money is wasted when piecemeal projects are built instead of full integrated systems. A Tri-Rail link to downtown will force the closing of Tri-Rail’s Metrorail Station and possibly the MIA station. There’s not enough trains to do both routes and not enough ridership to purchase more trains.

          • Quinn Kasal

            December 11, 2014 at 7:22 pm

            You bring up a good point about piecemeal projects but I disagree that there isn’t enough ridership there for the new route. The FEC/Biscayne corridor is far more densely populated than the current CSX Tri-Rail route and it’ll serve many more purposes than just commuting, like Aventura Mall. You’re right that we won’t need as many trains to MIA if we connect downtown and we could argue that that wouldn’t have been necessary if they had just brought Tri-Rail downtown first instead of building the huge station at MIA, but obviously that isn’t going anywhere. That said, we have an opportunity to improve upon its shortcomings for a substantially lower cost than Miami-Dade could ever pay on its own.

            Look at this map in this link ( Is this not a fully integrated system? Serves corridors of east and west Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, with at least two Metrorail connections, direct service to MIA, FLL, PBI, the actual economic hubs of Miami, Aventura, Hollywood, Ft.L, Pompano, Boca, WPB, Jupiter.

            This map doesn’t show the 71st st connector in Miami but I think eventual plan is to serve the entire FEC corridor anyway.

  9. marc

    December 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Its not a duplication of services. The Coastal Link adds 4-5 stops along the Biscayne corridor providing several neighborhoods mass transit options way better than the garbage bus lines stuck in traffic along Biscayne. This is sound planning or looking ahead providing better infrastructure. Do it now at this price or do it later at a higher price.

  10. Adam

    December 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Ben, this is no more a duplication of services than the Blue and the Red line are duplicating services in Chicago. TriRail would have two separate lines, one that serves the eastern FEC tracks (Coastal Link), and one that rides on the current tracks. The transfer between the lines this article refers to would be a temporary measure to give added value (without much added investment) for customers coming in on Tri Rail while the Coastal Link stations to Jupiter are being built.

    The positives here are huge: expanding commuter rail to communities on the coastal ridge—towns which were originally built around rail and have walkable blocks and big potential—would be a huge economic generator for S. Florida.

  11. Oscar

    December 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Connecting tri-rail to downtown Miami on the 71st street connector is a great idea.
    It should have been done a long time ago.

    Tri Rail is about to complete a huge station at Miami International Airport.
    The cost of that station was much greater than the cost to establish a link to downtown Miami. There is also a tri-Rail station at 79th street and about NW 37th Avenue. I took that connection monday night and it took more 1 hour to get to downtown Miami. I waited almost 45 minutes for the metrorail train.
    A direct connection should not take more than 15 minutes.

  12. Jesse

    December 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    FDOT is planning to spend $90 Million to build ONE new I-95 interchange in Palm Beach Gardens. And that’s an estimate – we know how these things work – the cost is likely to ballon to $120 M or more.

    For much less money, we can have a working rail connection into the HEART of downtown Miami, on existing track.

    Which of these is a more productive investment? I think the answer is obvious.

  13. AC

    December 7, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I believe in progress however the citizens on the north end of the county is still waiting for the expansion of the metro rail which will indeed alleviate traffic.

  14. Eusebio

    December 9, 2014 at 12:57 am

    Why now the Tri-Rail have to go to Miami Downtown ? What about the station already finished at MIC-MIA ? Why the Tri-Rail passengers now can’t use the Metrorail extension from MIA ? Corruption is rampant.
    I’m sure that Tri-Rail passengers are very happy with the project because the taxpayer of Miami Dade will get tab.

    • Adam

      December 9, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Yes, the Miami-Dade Commission is in the pocket of…wait for it…Tri-Rail. Sounds totally accurate and well-informed.

    • marc

      December 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      First off Eusebio, way more people take the Tri-Rail to Downtown Miami than to the airport so a DIRECT line there makes complete sense. Second, a line down to Downtown Miami along the FEC tracks, called the Tri-Rail Coastal Link which is happening would have additional stations in Downtown Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Aventura, North Miami Beach, North Miami, 79th St/Upper Eastside, Midtown/Design District and a few further north. This line is going to happen and a station in Downtown Miami is necessary. So guess what? There’s a station already happening and the tax payer would SAVE money if it is integrated now instead of spending way more a few years from now when this Coastal Link comes to fruition. Lastly, no where does it say that the Tri-Rail link to MIC-MIA is going to disappear.

  15. Eusebio

    December 9, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Perfect Marc, then let the people from Palm Beach and Broward to get the tab of the project and give a break to Miami Dade taxpayer.

    • marc

      December 9, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      I’m sure many Miami-Dade taxpayers that live near the Tri-Rail stations at Aventura, North Miami Beach, North Miami, Upper Eastside, and Midtown/Design District will gladly take the alternative to congested I-95 and Biscayne Blvd. into Downtown Miami not to speak of people that live in or around Downtown Miami that may want to go north to these other areas and beyond for shopping, dining, or work.

  16. Eusebio

    December 10, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Marc you sound like a politician, somebody with a special financial interest or a frequent Tri-Rail user. Here in Miami, Miami Beach and Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale area we have more than enough places for dinning and shopping, and the Tri-Rail is full of people that come from the north to work here. If you use the Tri-Rail to come to work in Miami, and expend your money at north, get off at Golden Glades and take the 95 Express, also from Ft. Lauderdale you can take the 395 Express to Downtown Miami. We refuse to take the tab for the project and I’ll do everything I can to show my opposition. We have enough with the Mayor Jimenez and the Miami Dade Commission giving our money to the rich people of Marlins, Dolphins, Heats and you name it.

  17. marc

    December 10, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    No Eusebio, I want to use mass transit and not drive. I live in Aventura and as many others do we all suffer the traffic heading to Downtown Miami, where I work, via Biscayne Boulevard or I-95. It would be a godsend for myself as well as thousands of others that live along or near Biscayne Blvd corridor to not have to drive west to then head south or ride the buses that travel down Biscayne that are at the mercy of the congestion on the road. Once the Tri-Rail Coastal Link, which again Eusebio is getting done, comes on line many people that live along the Biscayne corridor can take this train directly in to Downtown Miami and again that is just the commuter. There will be many others that may live along this corridor that will make use of the train for other things such as going to Midtown or the the Mimo District or NMB as there will be people in downtown such as tourists that will have the option to take this train to these locations as well as coming up to Aventura Mall. This is happening whether you like it or not. The question now is will we be smart enough to think ahead and build this station at the current price point or revisit this in 5 – 8 years and pay double. Either way it is going to happen because this county needs more transit options reaching areas it doesn’t reach now. I’m a researcher by the way and have nothing to do with real estate or retail or whatever you may think. I’m just a Miami-Dade citizen that is tired of the backwards thinking in Miami when it comes to transit.

  18. Eusebio

    December 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Backward thinking ? We voted yes to the 1/2 penny tax to be used in transit and what happened to Mr. Bradley when he tried to improve the public transit ? He get fired. Why ? Because that wasn’t the idea. They sold the 1/2 penny as a transportation tax but the idea was to used in infrastructure, i.e. fancy intersections, fancy street signs, replace sidewalks that were in good conditions, build circles in intersections at a super high cost and were not even the rescue and fire trucks can pass. Wake up Marc, the public transit will never be perfect because is too many intere$t that can be affected, i.e. Auto Dealership, Auto Insurance, Oil Companies, Tire and Auto repair shops and everything related. What they need is expansion were construction is involved because construction and trees is were the money can be steal . Why not I-95 over I-95, 836 over 836, 826 over 826? That’s a problem solved for years. Think about it.