Moving along: Transit stimulus to get Miami trolleys rolling, other street repairs going
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami officials are moving forward with plans to run four trolley routes along Miami streets and make bridge repairs and street and sidewalk improvements thanks to the millions in federal stimulus dollars slated to arrive.
The Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county's transportation planning arm, agreed last month to divide an anticipated $263 million by allocating $56 million for surface transportation projects among county municipalities based on population, $76 million in transit projects of which municipalities are sharing 20%, $126 million from the Florida Department of Transportation and $5.5 million for enhancement projects.
The City of Miami is hoping to spend the $9 million it is expected to get for highway-related projects in repairing the Brickell Key Bridge for $2 million, citywide sidewalk improvements, and roadway and drainage work along Northeast Second Avenue from 57th to 69th streets, city officials say.
For transit shovel-ready projects, Miami-Dade is setting aside 20% of its $76 million allocation, totaling about $15 million, to fund municipal projects.
Jose Gonzalez, Miami's assistant transportation coordinator, said details still need to be ironed out on the exact amount Miami-Dade's cities will get in federal transit dollars.
Jose Luis Mesa, the Metropolitan Planning Organization's staff director, said only cities that comply with requirements set by the Federal Transit Administration are eligible.
"The cities would have to become designated recipients of federal funds, and most are not," he said.
Mr. Mesa said the county is working closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to make sure stimulus legislation requirements and the stringent timetables are met.
Miami is prioritizing four transit projects for its share of the transit dollars: rubber-wheel trolley systems for downtown Miami, Coral Way, Overtown and Allapattah. Each system is estimated at $700,000 to $850,000, a city project list shows.
Mr. Gonzalez said one trolley route is to connect Brickell and downtown Miami, a second is to connect the Allapattah area with the Health District, a third is to run from Overtown/Park West to the Health District and a fourth is to serve riders along the Coral Way corridor.
City Manager Pete Hernandez said the number of routes the city can fund depends on how much money is available, but the idea is to fund the busiest areas with the biggest transit needs.
For example, he said a downtown trolley would connect the bustling downtown and Brickell areas, which are separated by the Miami River.
"It would facilitate the movement of the workforce and residential component in that area," he said.
The Coral Way trolley route, he added, would link Brickell to Coral Gables.
Mr. Gonzalez said to fund the trolley systems long-term — after the stimulus is long spent — the city is looking at placing advertising outside and inside the vehicles and charging a nominal fare of 25 to 50 cents.
Before any money is spent, Mr. Hernandez said, the city commission will first have to approve the trolley projects to receive funding.
In November, the commission approved a trolley system along the Health District funded by a three-year joint participation agreement between the city and the Florida Department of Transportation, each contributing $374,000.
The city's portion is to come from its share of the half percent transit surtax proceeds from the People's Transportation Plan.
The city plans to request proposals for a firm to provide vehicles, drivers, fuel, maintenance and vehicle storage for the Heath District route.
The city would oversee, monitor and finance the trolley system.
The firm's contract is to include an option to add more routes depending on how much is received in transit stimulus money, Mr. Gonzalez said.
The $5.5 million the county expects to get for enhancement projects is to be handed out on a "discretionary basis" by the Florida Department of Transportation, said Gus Pego, the department's local district secretary.
Mr. Gonzalez said Miami's enhancement priorities are to complete four segments of the river walk east of 12th Avenue.
Since talks of a stimulus began late last year, Miami has been at the front of the line asking for cash to fund projects in the pipeline, some halted because no money was available to move them forward.
Mr. Gonzalez said the city's transportation department and leaders of other city departments continue to meet regularly to discuss the plan for spending the funding.
"There is a lot of interaction and communication between the departments and partnerships among the departments to expedite these projects."