Tri-Rail won’t roll into downtown Miami this year
As Miami Central Station continues to rise downtown, Jack Stephens, executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, points to Tri-Rail making its grand debut at the station sometime next year.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which currently operates the Tri-Rail commuter rail line, provides service to Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach through an existing 72-mile-long system that has 18 stations along the South Florida Rail Corridor running north and south.
The trains also connect directly to Amtrak at numerous stations, and to Metrorail at the Tri-Rail Metrorail Transfer Station and at the Miami Airport Station.
As a result, this new “Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link” will utilize a 9-mile segment of existing railroad that runs through the city of Hialeah, Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami, while using sections of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and the Florida East Coast Railway corridor.
The goal, once the new downtown Miami link is established, will be to run 26 passenger trains into Miami Central Station, which is set to be the home of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline.
From the downtown Miami hub, both Tri-Rail and Brightline trains are to offer service throughout Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach. Brightline is to eventually reach Orlando.
However, until then, “there are a series of qualifications and tests that have to be met and approved by the Florida Railroad Administration (FRA) before any Tri-Rail trains roll into downtown Miami,” said Aaron Parets, Positive Train Control project manager at the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. “Right now, we are waiting on Florida East Coast Industries [the parent company of Brightline] to meet the necessary requirements set out by the FRA,” he said, “and we are also waiting on them to submit their application and a PTC [Positive Train Control] safety plan to the FRA.”
Typically, he said, “it can take up to a year or by statute up to 180 days for the FRA to respond, analyze and add comments to an application and PTC safety plan.”
The purpose of the PTC safety plan is to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive train speed, train movements through misaligned track switches and unauthorized train entry into work zones.
As for test runs of the trains into downtown Miami, Mr. Stephens said, “We don’t expect to run test trains until the end of the year.”
“Right now there is an incredibly complex system being put into place regarding safety,” he said. “I don’t think anyone anticipated the complexity of this process, but we are hoping that the process will speed up if everyone involved cooperates.”
Until then, Mr. Stephens said, “we expect to move into Miami Central Station sometime next year.”
However, he said, that timeline could change.