County Approves Railroad Corridor As Route For Metrorail Extension
By Shannon Pettypiece
After a pep talk from Miami-Dade County’s Washington lobbyist, the Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a route for a Metrorail extension to Miami International Airport.
The line is to run from the Earlington Heights Metrorail station down the South Florida Railroad corridor and enter from the north a proposed transportation hub near the airport.
While the county missed the federal government’s Aug. 28 deadline for projects to be considered for the Federal Transportation Administration’s 2004-05 budget, county lobbyist Dennis Vierra told the MPO last week that it could still get into the federal funding cycle if the board made a quick decision.
"It is most important that all efforts be made to make sure this effort provides timely action," Mr. Vierra said.
The FTA must submit its budget to the White House for review by Nov. 1, Mr. Vierra said, and the Bush administration will make a decision on the budget in February.
The MPO had planned to vote on a route at a July meeting but ran out of time, and members were unable to meet in August because many were on vacation.
Now that the MPO has chosen a route, preliminary engineering can begin. The FTA and Environmental Protection Agency must review the project before a grant is issued.
Mr. Vierra said it could be four to five years before construction begins.
Board members said the approved route would not have as much of an impact on surrounding communities as would another proposal, which would have sent a train through the median of Northwest 32nd Avenue in Miami’s Melrose area. The 32nd Avenue plan would have cost $70 million more than the approved plan but was preferred by citizens during a June public hearing.
Thirteen Melrose residents attended last week’s MPO meeting, and several told the board that many businesses would be hurt if the route were to go on 32nd Avenue.
"The disruption of Metrorail running through Melrose would be devastating," said Mark Crane, who said he works in the neighborhood. "All businesses close to 32nd Avenue would be destroyed from the construction over two years."
Transportation planners said the railway route would prevent Metrorail from being extended east or west from the airport because a train would have to make too sharp a turn out of the station.