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Front Page » Top Stories » Funding to bring Tri-Rail downtown advances

Funding to bring Tri-Rail downtown advances

Written by on March 11, 2015
Funding to bring Tri-Rail downtown advances

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority wants Miami-Dade County to fund about $8.3 million of the cost to bring Tri-Rail to downtown Miami.

Tri-Rail is a commuter train that links Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. In Miami-Dade, the trains stop in the west. A recent push to expand east and have trains come downtown hinges on nailing down $69 million to fund the infrastructure.

Most recently, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he supports Tri-Rail service downtown.

“It needs to happen,” Mayor Gimenez told Miami Today on Monday. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s a great use of public funds to leverage private dollars.”

Tri-Rail expansion would piggyback on infrastructure being built privately by All Aboard Florida, the express passenger train to link Miami and Orlando. Plans are for Tri-Rail trains to pull into All Aboard’s downtown Miami station and run on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in east Miami-Dade.

For that to happen, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority must solidify funds for infrastructure that Tri-Rail needs, said Jack Stephens, authority executive director. That includes tracks for Tri-Rail trains at All Aboard Florida’s station.

“It’s a proportional share,” Mr. Stephens said. “They [All Aboard Florida] pay their share, we pay our share. Anything strictly for Tri-Rail, Tri-Rail would pay that 100%.”

Specifically, the $8.3 million requested would come from a voter-approved half-cent sales surtax paid countywide. The surtax is part of the People’s Transportation Plan.

Charles Scurr, executive director of the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, the appointed body that oversees surtax spending, said using the surtax to help Tri-Rail expand does fit with the original mission of the People’s Transportation Plan.

“This is consistent with what that fund should be used for,” he said. “This is not diverting money. This is helping stimulate those projects.”

Mr. Scurr added that his organization has enough in hand for the $8.3 million request.

The regional authority is also on track to secure about $21 million – $3.1 million from its own coffers and about $17.9 million from the state, Mr. Stephens said.

The $3.1 million would go to install safety technology on Tri-Rail locomotives. A federal order requires trains with positive train control – technology that monitors and controls movement.

The state’s contribution would cover the $1 million access fee for the regional authority to use the Florida East Coast Railway corridor as well as tracks Tri-Rail would use at All Aboard’s station. Tri-Rail and All Aboard trains would pull into separate platforms and on separate tracks.

Even with this financing, the regional authority would still need $40 million more. The source that has been widely discussed is tax increment financing from Miami community redevelopment agencies that would repay bonded debt.

As for the $8.3 million, Mr. Stephens said: “It would be great that the county’s contribution could be a grant up front, so it would not have to be bonding and incurred debt.”

5 Responses to Funding to bring Tri-Rail downtown advances

  1. DC Copeland

    March 11, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Good to see the People’s Transportation Plan still has some money left over after county commissioners weakened their power to oversee spending of the money raised from the 1/2 cent sales tax and then proceeded to use it for their own pet projects. Hopefully the Trust learned something from that and has squirreled away tax gains since then in order to keep it from our shameless and avaristic elected officials.

  2. Charles LaBow

    March 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    I would much rather see the county spend money on a project like this which has a long term, public benefit rather than wasting money on some privately owned, underutilized, sports venue.

  3. B

    March 11, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    This should not even be an issue–it is really a no brainier. It’s appalling that Miami Mayor Regalado is opposed to using City redevelopment funds for this. If anything, this is THE most appropriate use of City funds at this time. Time to start diverting money from highway projects if necessary. (Meanwhile, delay the Miami Signature Bridge, which won’t help traffic congestion one bit, and let’s use that money for BayLink!!!). Almost ALL of the PTP road projects got done, and almost NONE of the transit projects, meanwhile the PTP was sold to voters as, and what we voted for back in 2002 was, a mass transit tax! As Commissioner Bovo has been saying, it’s time to actually do something and stop talking and doing endless studies when it comes to mass transit.

  4. DC Copeland

    March 11, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I agree. The Miami Signature Bridge is a waste of money simply because it isn’t being built to improve traffic flow. It’s being built for aesthetics. That money should be put to Baylink which will put it to better use. In fact, the cost of the bridge would more than pay for a dual-line monorail connecting the MB convention center with Miami Central Station.

  5. Rog in Miami Gardens

    March 14, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Like others have said, this is a “no-brainer”. With South Florida growing the way it is, infrastructural projects, like mass transit, should be keeping up with that growth, and for the last decade and a half, it hasn’t been.

    I welcome this move! Let’s do it!