Metromover repairs of falling concrete may dip into transit tax
Repairs to unstable concrete on the Brickell and Omni Metromover loops could begin next month, provided Miami-Dade lawmakers OK spending $5 million in People’s Transportation Plan (PTP) funds.
County commissioners are to decide Dec. 3 whether to pay Miami-based Gomez Construction Co. to make the repairs.
The Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, which oversees the PTP monies generated by a countywide half-penny transportation surtax, unanimously cleared the expenditure Nov. 20.
If approved next week, Gomez would within 150 days remove concrete, install safety netting and take other steps to prevent more debris from falling off the lines.
That timeframe comports with what county Rail Services Assistant Director Buford Whitaker estimated in September.
Mr. Whitaker told commissioners in the Transportation and Finance Committee that corrosion of metal beams supporting the rail lines had caused “unpredictable” breakdowns in the surrounding concrete.
The repairs, he said, would occur “sometime in the first quarter of 2020.”
Issues with Metromover debris date to August 2017, when large chunks of concrete fell from tracks onto Brickell sidewalks and streets. No one was hurt, and transit officials closed the south end of a nearby station while keeping the line running, the Miami Herald reported.
In April 2018, German Arenes, the county’s chief of construction, structural inspection and analysis, attributed the debris to the buildup of surface corrosion behind the concrete.
He told ABC that while the Metromover was safe, the county would continue inspections to prevent a repeat of the problem.
“It’s something we feel we can keep controlled,” he said.
In June this year, county commissioners approved emergency repairs for the Metromover loops.
“We’re talking … slabs of concrete that could literally fall off and kill somebody,” Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. said.
One month later, that nearly happened. On July 25, concrete again fell from the Brickell Loop above Southeast First Avenue, nearly striking a man walking his dog, WSVN reported.
In a press release, the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works described the detritus as “superficial, nonstructural concrete fragments,” saying that “the structure of the Metromover track was not compromised.”
“Public safety is the department’s top priority,” the release said.
According to Deputy Mayor Jennifer Moon, Miami-Dade this year increased the frequency of its Metromover concrete structural inspections from every 24 months – the minimum required – to every six months “due to the identification of increased corrosion and related delamination” on both loops.
The county inspected the loops’ concrete running pads in March and April, compiling “a list of deficiencies and areas of concern,” which county transportation and public works staff were given “for immediate repair.” A follow-up inspection was scheduled in September.
But after concrete again fell from the elevated line in July, the department “concluded that, regardless of the inspection frequency, predictions as to when and where this issue may reoccur are no longer accurate due to the accumulation of corrosion … and the lack of internal reinforcement from its original design,” Ms. Moon wrote in a memo accompanying the Dec. 3 items.
To best protect the public, she continued, the county contacted contractors in its Emergency Response Team Pool to fix the issue.
Gomez, she wrote, bid least while meeting the timeframe and site restriction criteria for the project, which will include:
■Removal of the existing bottom outside corner of the concrete pads along the Brickell and Omni loops “at all locations deemed necessary.”
■Protection of the structure from further corrosion “where accessible.”
■Installation of additional metal meshes to serve as safety netting between the system’s girders and under designated walkways “to supplement the existing safety netting system.”
For the Brickell project, Gomez would be paid $2,550,978 – $2,309,980 plus a 10% contingency allowance of $230,998 and a dedicated allowance account of $10,000 for “escort services for relevant authorities having jurisdiction.”
The county would pay Gomez $2,529,979 for the Omni project – $2,290,890 plus a 10% contingency of $229,089 and another $10,000 for escort services.
Residents in 2002 voted to create a half-percent sales tax here on every dollar up to $5,000, with the tax funds to go toward building new transit throughout the county.
But in 2009, during the recession, the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust and county lawmakers voted to combine the tax funds with the county’s transit operating and maintenance budget to curb cutbacks to transit here amid sagging funds.
This year, after years of subsidizing county transit operations and maintenance, Miami-Dade commissioners voted to untangle PTP funds from the county general fund.
Trust Chairman Joseph Curbelo told Miami Today that while the separation of the PTP and general fund continues, the Metromover repairs are included in the trust’s five-year plan, which includes leftover operations and maintenance projects.