TALKS ON TRACK: Negotiations continue to convince CSX Transportation officials to allow Tri-Rail to use the line's freight tracks to expand service into southwest Miami-Dade County, a spokesman for Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said. "Last week the chairman had a very busy week with public hearings on Miami-Dade's urban development boundary issue," his spokesman said, adding that talks with the Jacksonville freight company are ongoing. The commission seeks CSX's permission to use a set of tracks to speedily create a passenger rail line to carry Kendall residents to downtown Miami jobs, shortening the current commute of about 90 minutes.
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SPIFFING UP METRORAIL: Miami-Dade Transit's selection committee was to meet this week to review final bids from four companies competing for a $289.8 million contract to refurbish the county's 136-car Metrorail fleet, according to Manny Palmeiro, agency spokesperson. Initial work on four cars is to begin in September for 2008 completion. The bidders are Alstom Transportation Inc. (France), Bombardier Mass Transit Corp. (Canada), Ansaldobreda (Italy), and CAF (Spain). The project is partially funded by the county's half-percent sales transportation surtax.
CONDO RESALES SLIDE: Miami condo resales fell 26% in March from a year earlier, with 1,135 sold versus 1,533 in March 2005, with average prices down 4% to $249,200, the Florida Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. Single-family home resales in the Miami market increased 21% to 942 from 777, bucking a downward trend of 22% statewide, with a rising price here of 19% to $383,100. In the Fort Lauderdale market, condo resales fell 27% while prices rose 16% $202,600, and single-family home resales fell 32% as prices rose 11% to $368,100.
SEAPORT ACCESS: A 9 a.m. forum at the Port of Miami May 3 will address access to the port in light of increasing congestion in downtown roadways. Agenda topics include future traffic volumes, extended port operating hours, port passes, practices at other seaports and future alternatives — presumably including plans for a tunnel. Port Director Charles Towsley; Darrell Kim Beatley of TranSystems; John Lucas, vice president of intermodal marketing and sales for the Florida East Coast Railway; and a representative of the Florida Department of Transportation are to speak. RSVPs are required by Friday. Details: (305) 347-4910.
GREENING THE ORANGE: The Orange Bowl may get a makeover if Miami commissioners today (4/27) accept the bid from Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. If approved, City Manager Joe Arriola is to negotiate an agreement with the company for $6.5 million.
WAREHOUSES RISE: Flagler Development Co. has begun building two 172-048-square-foot warehouses at Flagler Station Miami, 10505 NW 112th Ave. in Doral, to be done by year's end. Citing 99% occupancy of its warehouses at the site, Vice President W. Shane Soefker said "the tightness of the South Florida industrial market and the ongoing interest from potential tenants for new space supports the construction of two new buildings."
THE MASK OF FIDO: Americans spend $38.4 billion on their pets, but nowhere is love of pets better exemplified than in Miami-Dade County, where rescue units will be outfitted with pet oxygen masks. "With a large domestic animal population our professional fire fighters and rescue personnel now have yet another tool to save lives," said county Commissioner Sally Heyman. "These masks will be an invaluable addition for all units."
SLIMMING DOWN: Despite talk about big government growing bigger, government employment has fallen slightly in Miami-Dade County, down two-tenths of a percentage point in 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Government employment fell three-tenths of a percentage point here last year. The last big gain was 3.8% in 2000.
INFLATING: Increases in Miami-Fort Lauderdale consumer prices continue to far outpace increases in urban areas nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Prices here for a market basket of consumer expenditures increased 6.1% in the 12 months ended in February, the agency reported last week, while nationally the increases was a more moderate 3.4%. Goods that in 1982 would have cost $100 here now cost $202.20, the average indicates.
TEACHER HOUSING BID: As Miami-Dade schools look for ways to attract and retain teachers, they formed a task force this month to look at ways to aid employees buy housing with below-market-rate loans or interest rates, help with down payments, subsidized loans and other assistance. It's a hot trend: In Pinellas County, administrators are looking at converting an elementary school into teacher housing, and school boards in Key West, Naples and Osceola County are looking at giving developers low-cost leases for school land in exchange for school employee housing at low rental rates. Miami-Dade's task force on housing aid is to report to the school board in July.
COURTING VISITORS: How about a trip to the park? Visit the Fort Dallas Barracks in Lummus Park, get free coffee and bagels — then sit in as Circuit Court Judge Scott J. Silverman hears and decides cases as he temporarily relocates his courtroom to the park May 3. The move comes 120 years to the day after the very first session of the Dade County Circuit Court in the same building — though the structure was moved from its original site to the park at 404 NW Third Court (how apropos) in 1925. Refreshments are at 8:30 a.m., the gavel bangs at 9.
HONORS FOR LOY: The German American Business Chamber of Florida Inc. is to present the Distinguished German American Award of Excellence 2006 to Walter Loy, senior advisor for international affairs at Esslinger Wooten Maxwell realty, who is also a recipient of the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, at 6 p.m. May 9 at the Bankers Club of Miami. Details: (305) 371-4282.
ENTREPRENEUR FAME: Manny Medina, chairman and CEO of Terremark Worldwide Inc., is to receive the 2006 South Florida Entrepreneur of the Year award from Florida International University at its Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame induction ceremony and luncheon May 17 at Parrot Jungle Island. At the same ceremony, Avisena President Albert Santalo and New Plan Excel Realty Trust CEO Glenn J. Rufrano are to be inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. Details: (305) 348-4227.
ILL WINDS: Miami commissioners are to vote today (4/27) on an emergency relief program agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation for debris cleanup associated with Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina. The city is asking for a $8.6 million reimbursement for the debris removal for roads and lands under federal jurisdiction.
SHADING THE ROADWAYS: Miami's Department of Public Works is requesting $25,000 from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Forestry for equipment to help public works inspectors inventory and manage trees in the city's right-of-ways. Public Works is doing forestation and reforestation throughout the city, currently in Little Haiti.
A TAD LATE: The Bayfront Park Management Trust is asking Miami commissioners today (4/27) to adopt the proposed $240,800 budget of the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The authority was created in 1983 to promote sports, conventions and exhibitions throughout the city.
DOLLARS AND SENSE: Miami Children's Museum is among 17 such institutions nationally that will share in a $500,000 grant from the A.G. Edwards Nest Egg Knowledge for Kids initiative. The grant program, funded by Edwards, stemmed from a Harris Interactive poll showing that 56% of parents do not teach their children about investing or savings and that only 27% of schools make it part of the curriculum. "The grant will be used to provide free field trips and outreach programming centered on financial literacy skills and money management," said Justine Baron, grants manager for the local museum.