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Front Page » Top Stories » Miamidade County Commission Vents Plenty Gives Nod To Rail Cars Buy

Miamidade County Commission Vents Plenty Gives Nod To Rail Cars Buy

Written by on March 20, 2008

By Lou Ortiz
After heated debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission succumbed to a staff proposal to replace Metrorail’s aging fleet of railcars for nearly a half-billion dollars.

In a scene reminiscent of past controversies, commissioners railed against and criticized county staffers before approving their proposal Tuesday on an 8-2 vote.

The railcars issue is a matter the commission thought it settled in 2004 when commissioners approved rehabbing 136 railcars for $188 million. The commission acted after the transit agency failed to overhaul the 1984 fleet, and after $5.4 million in consultant fees, to come up with the rehab plan.

But the project idled. Bids for the work exceeded staff estimates, climbing to $300 million by 2006. After another study last year, totaling $3.5 million, the staff proposed Tuesday that Miami-Dade buy new railcars for $401 million, a price that is likely to increase as bids are prepared and submitted over the next one to two years.

County staffers defended their latest proposal, saying it would include a total of 198 railcars — 62 for the anticipated Metrorail expansion — and that it would result in future savings of $40 million to $140 million. New cars have a life of 30 years vs. 20 years for refurbished cars.

Commissioner Javier D. Souto singled out County Manager George Burgess for criticism. "There’s a great concern about how things run in this [county] building," Mr. Souto said. "There have been a lot of bad decisions."

But Mr. Burgess said he had the transit agency and others go over the proposal many times to ensure it was best for the county. "It’s a very expensive recommendation," he said, but it’s "more cost effective for the county."

Commissioner Katy Sorenson summed it up: "This is a bitter pill we’ll have to swallow." Advertisement