Brightline might bypass five new rail platforms
New commuter rail in Northeast Miami-Dade would have up to five new platforms along Florida East Coast Industries’ line between downtown and an upcoming Aventura station but FECI’s Brightline won’t necessarily stop at any of them, a company executive says.
After local government committed five years ago to bringing Tri-Rail downtown, FECI Senior Vice President Jose Gonzalez also told Miami’s Downtown Development Authority board in a virtual meeting Friday that the service might roll into the city on FECI tracks by next year.
The proposed commuter platforms would be on FECI’s line between Virgin MiamiCentral station downtown and an upcoming Aventura station, at both of which the commuter line would connect to Brightline, Mr. Gonzalez said. The commuter line stops would be in Wynwood, the Design District, Upper East Side, North Miami and the FIU Biscayne Bay campus.
“Our goal again is to expand and connect as many modes of transit as possible and in places where east-west feeders can actually work very well,” he said.
The county would pick the commuter operator, he said, whether it’s Tri-Rail, the county itself or another entity.
Mr. Gonzalez said Brightline will bring the county commission a memorandum of understanding next month. The two parties still must agree on funding for capital improvements and operations. In June, the commission directed Mayor Carlos Giménez to negotiate with Brightline and bring back a proposal.
DDA Chairman Manolo Reyes commended the project and asked how the locations would be determined. Mr. Gonzalez responded that the sites had been pulled from a study and either have significant population or potential for population growth. However, he said, elected officials and stakeholders would determine the actual sites.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins said the county would work to adapt existing bus lines to feed passengers to the platforms.
“If we are able to put these great new platforms in place quickly, we would adapt those routes to make sure they have good connectivity with the commuter rail,” she said.
She also said that because the tracks, the most expensive piece of rail systems, already exist, the project could attract federal funding, including from the Federal Railroad Administration.
However, several members asked when Tri-Rail could come into downtown. Marta Viciedo, founder of nonprofit Transit Alliance, said that if Mr. Gonzalez is requesting authority support, there is also need to address the Tri-Rail link. The authority has supported Tri-Rail’s entry into downtown.
Mr. Gonzalez said Brightline continues to work with Tri-Rail, with only federally-mandated safety measure positive train control pending, but expects to be done by year’s end. He said FECI has made its system more user-friendly, so Tri-Rail won’t require adaptation to use its corridor.
He said that after the system is installed, the Federal Railroad Administration will test it in the first quarter of 2021, and then Tri-Rail will be able to enter downtown.
In 2015, the county, City of Miami and Tri-Rail committed to investing nearly $70 million to fund 26 trains and nine miles of rail infrastructure to bring service to downtown. Tri-Rail’s commuter service would offer about 20 stops from downtown to Palm Beach County.
Brightline suspended service March 25 and has laid off at least 250 of its more than 300 employees.