Refurbishment Of Transit Cars Back On Track
By Susan Stabley
Long-delayed plans to refurbish the county’s Metrorail and Metromover systems appear back on track.
The Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, a voter-mandated watchdog group, last week approved a consulting contract with Washington Infrastructure Services Inc. to overhaul 136 Metrorail cars and 12 Metromover cars.
Approval of the $2.3 million contract moves the plan from "budget to reality," said John Cosgrove, chairman of the trust.
The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners on Sept. 9 gave Washington Infrastructure approval to prepare bid and contract documents for contractors. Funding for the project would come from a half-penny sales surtax approved by voters last November.
A rehabilitation of the transit systems is years behind schedule, said Mr. Cosgrove, who said the purpose of the work is more to ensure public safety than to beautify the cars. The refurbishment would include air-conditioning repairs, floor restoration and installation of new seats.
"Our backs are up against the wall to get this done," he said. "I’m really pushing to make this a top-priority agenda item."
Officials are not sure when work would begin. Estimates place the cost of the project to refurbish the 20-year-old Metrorail cars at about $300 million.
"The first element is the consulting contract," Mr. Cosgrove said.
Once a contractor is hired, the work will take six years, said Miami-Dade Transit spokesman Manny Palmeiro. The county plans to work on only a few cars at a time to avoid major disruption of service.
Metrorail is a network of elevated trains that runs along 22 miles of track from Kendall to South Miami, Coral Gables and downtown Miami; and from the Civic Center-Jackson Memorial Hospital area into Brownsville, Liberty City, Hialeah and Medley in northwest Miami-Dade County. Metrorail passengers can transfer to a Tri-Rail car to travel to Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Metrorail averages more than 1.16 million users per month, according to statistics from the citizens panel. Monthly ridership increased 7.1% from June 2002 to June 2003.
Overhauling the light-rail Metromover may require replacing the original batch of 12 cars first used in 1986. Rehabilitation was due in 1996 but was not performed because of lack of funding, according to county documents.
Rehabilitation is expected to extend vehicle life for another 10 years.
About 564,582 passengers use Metromover every month.
Transportation officials plan to improve the entire Metromover system, consisting of 29 light-rail cars that run through downtown. The first phase of the plan calls for a $16 million expenditure by 2005. A decision to buy new cars or replace parts on current ones hasn’t been made. A new railcar would cost $1.8 million, and refurbishing one would cost $1.4 million plus maintenance expenses, according to estimates.