Plans for Metrorail line headed north may be going south
At least one prominent Miami-Dade official is having second thoughts about pursuing a northern Metrorail extension, citing figures from a new report that favor two cheaper, easier alternatives.
County Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson said she saw “nothing but issues” with building new Metrorail, which transportation decision-makers here chose last year to serve a 9.5-mile stretch along Northwest 27th Avenue to the Broward County line.
Elevated Metrorail, endorsed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), is estimated to cost $1.9 billion, making it by far the most expensive mode examined for the corridor.
During talks last week over the report county transportation staff wrote with infrastructure design consultant HNTB, Ms. Edmonson said the county should reconsider previously discarded automated people mover and monorail options.
“It seems everything FDOT is recommending we are finding issues with,” she said. “People mover, as well as the monorail, has jumped into the picture [with] advantages.”
She said she would support the wishes of Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district encompasses the corridor, but “something to me just doesn’t sound right in that.”
The county report said Metrorail’s infrastructure-intensive requirements, larger right-of-way needs and limited flexibility ramp costs up significantly compared to the two alternatives.
Annual operations and maintenance for Metrorail, costing $40 million to $60 million, are potentially double that of monorail or people mover, which each would cost $25 million to $35 million yearly in upkeep.
Many have spoken to the merits of a one-seat ride between Kendall and the northernmost point of the county, but a mode separate from Metrorail would be more flexible, carrying comparable passenger totals by running more frequently, staff wrote.
Monorail and people mover’s smaller, lighter vehicles could also handle tighter turns and would require less right-of-way acquisitions due to less infrastructure needs.
Buses on the corridor now take 29 minutes end to end, carrying 400 passengers hourly at 15-minute intervals. That capacity could triple, staff wrote, if buses ran every five minutes.
Metrorail, at nine-minute peak intervals, could carry 3,000 passengers hourly at full capacity along the corridor, with 19-minute trips from end to end.
People mover in the same time could carry 1,600 passengers hourly at 7½-minute intervals and 2,500 passengers per hour with even shorter intervals.
Monorail would take 20 minutes, carry up to 1,600 hourly at 5½-minute intervals and up to 2,500 an hour with less wait between trips.
The report noted potential savings for all three elevated modes. Moving the line slightly eastward alone, staff wrote, could save up to $10 million in construction. And by reducing initial fleet size and ordering more over time to meet demands, the county could save $20 million to $30 million.
Altogether, the changes could cut Metrorail cost to $1.75 billion, monorail to $1.4 billion and people mover to under $1.2 billion.
Transportation staff are at work on a bid request for the corridor.
“After we come to that point,” Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III said, “if we find something [better] than heavy rail, we would come back [and] change the locally preferred alternative.”