Transit officials want to add support services to plan budget
By Samantha Joseph
Miami-Dade County transit officials want to amend the People's Transportation Plan to provide more accurate projections for use of the $1.7 billion fund.
Under the amendment, administrators would add budgets for support services needed to accomplish larger projects. The transportation plan's budget for adding 44 miles to the county's bus routes, for example, needs to account for additional bus shelters, garages and maintenance centers not listed in original outlines, officials said.
"This way, we can give a more realistic and detailed schedule of implementation," said Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley. "This is not a change to the original mandate. It was always the assumption that this was to be one integrated system."
Administrators said the amendment would not divert money from the goals laid out by Miami-Dade voters in 2002 who approved a sales tax to finance and establish the plan.
Since its inception, the plan has financed the largest improvement ever to the county's bus service, according to transit officials. As of November, the transit department reported, it has achieved half of the goals laid out in the plan for enhancing bus travel during a five-year period.
The bus program has accounted for 50 expanded routes, reduced waiting times and 68 additional vehicles on the street during rush hours, according to the transit department. The department has added eight routes to parts of Homestead, Liberty City and west Miami and financed about 500 bus shelters and 1,500 signs across the county as well as a new maintenance hub at 8141 NW 80th St.
Using plan financing, the county was able to study its bus-operating system for the first time in 20 years to determine a strategy for improvements, Mr. Bradley said.
"We had the low-hanging fruit that we could implement immediately," Mr. Bradley said. "We're on time and on schedule and giving the public a realistic view of what can be done with the surtax dollars."
Transit officials have turned their attention to more complicated projects, including a $2 billion expansion to Metrorail.
Officials plan to add 2.3 miles from the Earlington Heights Metrorail station to join the line with the planned Miami Intermodal Center to help create a transportation hub near Miami International Airport.
Aside from a $100 million contribution from the Florida Department of Transportation on Oct. 22, the project's $260 million construction price is to come from a variety of local sources including the People's Transportation Plan.
A second job would extend Metrorail from Northwest 27th Avenue to the Broward/Miami-Dade County line at a cost of $843 million.
The biggest expenditure for Metrorail would lie in a $1.3 billon expansion that would span 15 miles from Florida International University north along Florida's Turnpike, connecting to the intermodal center and downtown Miami.
The transportation plan also calls for replacing the 20-year-old Metromover trains and refurbishing Metrorail cars beginning in 2006.
The budget and finance committee of the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust, the group that oversees the fund's spending, approved the amendment in December.
The amendment is set to go before the full trust by Jan. 15. Transportation officials could include supplemental projects to the plan as early as next spring.