Miami Beach May Stall Commuter Link To Downtown Miami
By Frank Norton
Plans for a light rail or shuttle linking downtown Miami and Miami Beach could roll forward in January, but one mayor is changing the speed.
Until this week, the Miami Beach Commission was expected next month to endorse the so-called Bay Link, giving county planners the go-ahead signal. Instead, the Beach may not endorse any plan at all, Mayor David Dermer says, preferring to put the issue to a citywide vote.
"The people, especially those on the Beach that would be most affected, need to understand the massive impact a construction project like this would have on the community for years to come," he said this week. "I think the commission should put it on the ballot."
That could delay Bay Link months or years, backers say.
At least six groups support Bay Link but county planners say they need input from Miami Beach before they can finish studies for the state and federal departments of transportation for matching dollars.
In 2001, the county commissioned the first part of a $1.5 million engineering study to develop beach-to-mainland alternatives.
That phase is finished and has been reviewed by all involved except Miami Beach, said Larry Foutz, senior project manager with Parsons Brinckerhoff, which did the study. The next step in developing the plan for federal and state reviewers that could enhance funding won’t occur unless the Beach endorses this early phase, he said.
In November, voters passed a half-percent transit tax to create a dedicated revenue stream to help finance transportation improvements countywide.
"The search for local funding has largely been solved," said county project manager Wilson Fernandez. "Now it’s a matter of gaining consensus."