Trirail Drops Plan To Make Way For Metrorail Extension
By Shannon Pettypiece
Plans for a western extension of Tri-Rail service in Miami-Dade County have been shelved so the county can pursue a western expansion of Metrorail.
"At the request of Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority has deferred any further analysis of the east-west corridor to Miami-Dade, who said they would take the lead on the alternative analysis study," said Bonnie Arnold, spokeswoman for the regional authority.
Tri-Rail’s planned expansion would have put the commuter train on the existing CSX railroad tracks parallel to State Road 836 to Florida’s Turnpike. Tri-Rail planned on taking three years and spending $150 million on the project.
Instead, the county plans to build a 6-mile elevated rail for Metrorail to Florida International University for $440 million. It plans to have the service running by 2012.
Tri-Rail plan would have cost hundreds of millions less and have opened years sooner, but county officials asked the regional authority to drop its plan because they did not want to compete with Tri-Rail for federal funds, said Carlos Bonzon, Miami-Dade’s director of surface transportation.
With two commuters trains going east and west in the county, Metrorail’s projected ridership numbers probably would have been too low to get a $220 million grant from the federal government.
County officials said a Metrorail extension would be a better option in the long term because it would go further west and would run more frequently because it would not share tracks with CSX freight trains, Mr. Bonzon said.
"We decided with Tri-Rail that the county should go ahead with the east-west study," said Mr. Bonzon. The issue has not gone to the county’s transportation board or the county commission.
Under Tri-Rail’s plan, a bus would have taken riders from the turnpike to Florida International University.
The county recently contributed $15 million to Tri-Rail for a second set of tracks to decrease time between trains and improve efficiency. But some members of the transportation board, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said they felt the expenditure would be of little benefit to county residents if Tri-Rail did not expand further into the county.
Tri-Rail runs north and south from Palm Beach County to Miami International Airport.
"I was still under the impression that Tri-Rail’s plan was going to be to expand in Miami-Dade County," said county Commissioner Jimmy Morales, who sits on the Metropolitan Planning Organization. "It’s great that we put $15 million on the table, but it doesn’t help many people in Miami-Dade County."