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Front Page » Transportation » Frustrated with Smart plan, county seeking private transit partner

Frustrated with Smart plan, county seeking private transit partner

Written by on March 6, 2018
Frustrated with Smart plan, county seeking private transit partner

Miami-Dade’s six corridor transit expansion, the SMART plan, this week hit a snag, delaying studies an additional year. Frustrated commissioners said the county has to be more honest with the public and directed the administration to look for privately funded solutions before the studies wrap up next year.

“This is very frustrating for us,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “We have obviously done a great disservice to the public by missing deadlines.”

To receive federal and state funding, the county must first complete National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] studies on each corridor. The county hired three consultants last March, with the contracts expiring this month.

Ms. Levine Cava said the commissioners were led to believe the reports would be completed this month so the Transportation Planning Organization [TPO] could decide about the corridors come May.

On Tuesday, the Transportation and Public Works Department requested the commissioners extend the contracts to study the SMART plan an additional year.

Though the year-long extension won’t cost the county added money, commissioners say the department has been dishonest in its communication of the plan’s timeline.

“It isn’t that our consultants aren’t working hard,” Ms. Levine Cava said, “it’s just about being honest with the public about the time that it takes.”

Of the six corridors in the SMART plan, the Florida Department of Transportation is to cover the cost of three. The county is responsible for funding the other three: the South Corridor, the 20-mile long transitway in South Dade connecting Florida City to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station; the East-West Corridor, the 11-mile span from Florida International University to the Miami Intermodal Center at the airport; and the Beach Corridor, the 11.5-mile span from the Miami Design District through the MacArthur Causeway to the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The Beach Corridor and the East-West Corridor studies will probably be finished by summer 2019, Transit Director Alice Bravo said, while the South Corridor studies should be finished by December of this year.

When Ms. Levine Cava asked what happens after the studies are completed, Ms. Bravo said still more studies will need to be done:

“That gives you environmental clearance, demonstrating you can use federal and state funding, but then we need to do the PD&E [Project Development and Environment] studies,” Ms. Bravo said.

In an effort to bypass the studies and seek alternative funding, Commissioner Dennis Moss asked Ms. Bravo how a potential public-private partnership could expedite the process.

“It depends on the funding you want to receive from other agencies,” Ms. Bravo said, reminding commissioners that any state or federal funding requires the studies and also has low-cost financing. “To access those funds, we need to complete the studies.”

Ms. Levine Cava said the county needs to find a way to communicate more clearly to the public how long the studies take.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan agreed, saying information keeps changing and the community has been left out of the loop.

“I would just like to get off the dime at some point, but it seems as if it’s not a dime anymore. It’s a quarter, then 50 cents and now a dollar,” Ms. Jordan said.

Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. who ran for chair on a transit expansion platform, said the delay is “ridiculous.”

“We’re caught in a quagmire because if we stop the studies, we’re not helping ourselves, so we have to support” the extension, he said.

When Mr. Bovo pressed about the timeline for beginning construction on any corridors of the SMART plan, Ms. Bravo said there are variables out of the county’s control:

“The two big variables that affect us are if there is controversy around the corridor leading to more public involvement and the review time of the Federal Transit Administration,” Ms. Bravo said.

Mr. Bovo said that he doesn’t trust the department’s timeline and the studies will probably take longer than advertised: “If you say summer 2019, I’m hearing 2020. It’s the nature of the beast.”

Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Mr. Bovo said they had both spoken to US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who is itching to finance the SMART plan for the county but needs the county to hurry up.

“He’s sitting on pots of money and wants to help, and we’re entertaining Ford on autonomous vehicles for pizza deliveries,” Mr. Bovo said of the county’s priorities.

Commissioner Sally Heyman expressed her frustration with the transportation department.

“Mr. Chair, I’m afraid your term may come and go before we even get an idea of how un-smart our SMART plan was,” Ms. Heyman told Mr. Bovo.

Even if the department’s timeline is correct, Mr. Bovo said the county couldn’t go out for procurement until 2021 or 2022.

“None of us will even be here,” Mr. Bovo said, referring to the commissioners on the dais, most of who face term limits before that time.

“We need to energize something,” Mr. Bovo said. “We need to light a candle – no, we need to put a blowtorch to this thing to get it to move.”

To move the county forward while waiting on the consultants to finish the studies, Mr. Bovo asked county attorneys if they could begin pursuing public-private partnerships.

“Can we push forward an expression of interest [EOI] on all of the corridors and see what the industry brings us?” Mr. Bovo asked the attorneys.

County attorneys said the county could issue an EOI to see if there is private interest in developing the corridors, but any federal and state funds couldn’t be accessed until after the studies are finished.

After commissioners voted to grant the department its contract extension, Mr. Bovo instructed the administration to prepare a motion within 30 days issuing an expression of interest to gauge the private sector’s interest in helping expand

15 Responses to Frustrated with Smart plan, county seeking private transit partner

  1. Roy R Jr

    March 7, 2018 at 12:56 am

    This is due to a lack of leadership. Aside from Mr. Bovo who is trying to get the ball rolling, these lifetime commissioners and that includes mayor Jimenes who himself was a lifetime county commissioner, they continue to kick the can when it comes to mass transit as they have always done. In the meantime more skyscrapers are being constructed creating more concentrated pockets of people with less transit mobility to get around to other parts of the county without having to use a car.

  2. Big Daddy

    March 7, 2018 at 1:08 am

    If they chose to really be honest, tell us then where are the PTP funds going?

    Ever since 2002, the Transit half-penny tax approval from the voters (PTP funds) , its been lies after lies. Always lying to the people is getting old really fast and we are getting sick and tired of it!

    Its been 16 years already that you have been collecting money from the voters and have failed to deliver anything really. For 16 years, where has that money gone?

    Now, you expect for citizens to wait around for another 5 years to finish your studies? By then, you Miami Politicians would be retired with your pockets full of our PTP money, somewhere in the carribean..

    Everyone can see, Your Playing Us!!!!!!

  3. Alex Heklerr

    March 7, 2018 at 7:40 am

    It looks like the commission is saying that are tired of the transit agency lying to them.

  4. DC Copeland

    March 7, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Metrorail’s original plan was to extend it up NW 27th Ave all the way to Calder with, among others, a stop at Miami Dade North campus. Am I too believe there are no studies from back in the day to proceed with the extension? This is BS. As for public-private ventures, here’s an idea: Let Genting build their casino on the old Miami Herald site in exchange for them building and managing Baylink. You wanna see something get built real fast, that’s the way to go. Of course they would have to extend it at least to the Miami Beach Convention Center. Trust me, they can afford it.

    • F. Cabrera

      March 7, 2018 at 11:40 am

      Good idea….Genting would see a huge benefit to routing all the Miami and Miami Beach tourist traffic through their property. We win with a better system and more convenience for tourists who pay for so much of what we have here….now let’s see some small minded political fool in Government Center propose THAT and then let’s see him or her back down once the unions raise a roar. It’s our money and our county we should have more to say on this

  5. William P.

    March 7, 2018 at 10:19 am

    The lack of county leadership and the general mis-management is shocking. The 1/2 penny has been wasted essentially and the county kicks the can. Miami Dade County is becoming the poster child of government waste.

  6. Jamie Jamie

    March 7, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Straight bullshit with all these studies. The Original Orange Line from County Line Road & N.W.27th ave was already conducted back in the first part of THE Millennium. That’s the only rail line that should go up ASAP but as usual bait & switch in the black community that needs the line most and will produce the most ridership from transfers from Broward County Transit ☹☹

  7. F Cabrera

    March 7, 2018 at 10:35 am

    If we leave it up to these fools the plan will never get done and if it is it will cost ten times as much. What’s holding things up is that in order to get federal money they have to do all these studies. A private contractor like Brightline faces less hurdles. Let’s get a private contractor to build it and operate it and have the county share in the revenues. It would get built on time, on budget and would actually RUN.

    Maybe I’m just bitter because I just got off the Metrorail after waiting for two trains, being packed into a stinking 30 year old car and then having the train take twice as long as it should have to get me to work…why do we keep voting for these guys?

  8. Elite

    March 7, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Directors are usually hired to uplift and fix departments.

    Ever since Ms Alice Bravo’s inception, the Transit Department has been run into the ground and the department’s problems have been amplified by 100x, and it seems like lately, every time her poor performance has been attacked by the Media, Mr Gimenez is always defending her poor decisions.

    Any private entity would have terminated an employee with such poor deliverance, but as we all know, government employees will never be removed unless the public gets more involved and demands it!

    and as usual, on paper she might be highly qualified for the position, but in the real world, she is really clueless or lying to hide something crooked going on behind the scenes.

    Demand it: FIRE ALICE BRAVO!!!!! And fix our Transit and Traffic nightmares in Miami!

  9. John Hacker

    March 7, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    How can we see where the money went?

  10. Ally

    March 8, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Fire Alice Bravo and get someone who knows how to fix the problem!!

    • B

      March 10, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      The problem goes higher than Bravo. It’s Gimenez who has fallen hook, line, and sinker for Uber and the hope of driverless cars and who thinks transit is 18th Century technology despite *every* modern world class city investing heavily in it.

  11. B

    March 10, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    The studies should have begun on DAY ONE of the PTP taking effect, not on Year 15!!! And instead of setting aside the pot of money to quickly move forward after studies are done, the County went ahead and spent $$$ on highways instead. I have voted with my feet, and I suspect Amazon will pass on Miami.

  12. yoel

    March 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Must you be Reminded, you People serve us as Public Servants, The Mayor and Commissioners need to get rid of the Transit Director ASAP, she has rendered our Transit system to something totally useless for the working people.

    That’s the Main Reason for your Dropping Ridership claims

    We pay Taxes and Vote!

  13. Marta

    May 31, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Fire Gimenez. Fire Alice Bravo the transit director. Fire them all!!! Where’s all the transit money from the half penny tax???