Summit to target Miami rail projects
By Lou Ortiz
Stalled corridor rail projects in the Miami-Dade County People's Transportation Plan will be the focus of a spring transportation summit, said Charles Scurr, executive director of the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust.
"We're starting to focus on what are the next big projects," he said. The summit "will focus on plans for each corridor and how we're going to put together resources to accomplish that."
Plans for the two-day summit come as the trust celebrates its 10th anniversary Nov. 5.
In 2002, voters approved a half-percent surtax on sales to support the transportation plan, which funds improvements to develop an integrated mass transportation network. The surcharge also funds road improvements.
Mr. Scurr said the summit will bring together national and local transportation experts, including representatives from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transit Administration.
The summit will focus on "where we are, what are the next steps, corridor by corridor," he said, adding that it would include times and plans for the corridors to get off the ground and "establishing priorities and developing financial forecasts."
The original plan included rapid transit projects that were expected to be completed between 2003 and 2031. They included up to 88.9 miles of countywide rapid transit lines constructed in eight segments.
The North Corridor, Miami-Intermodal Center-Earlington Heights Connector (Air-portLink), "and the western portion of the East-West Corridor were merged to form one project, the Orange Line comprised of three phases," county documents show. "The Airport Link was the Orange Line Phase 1, the North Corridor was the Orange Line Phase 2 and the East-West Corridor was the Orange Line Phase 3."
Individually, and as outlined in county documents, the projects included:
The North Corridor: "As initially approved, a 9.5-mile heavy rail extension of Metrorail was to open in 2016 from Northwest 27th Avenue at the existing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Metrorail Station to the Broward/Miami-Dade County."
The project was on track to becoming a candidate for the federal funding needed to get started until the Federal Transit Administration downgraded the project in 2008, doubting the county could afford to build new systems and continue supporting existing ones.
The East-West Corridor: "The East-West Corridor was initially proposed to be a 17.2-mile heavy rail line constructed in two segments… and estimated to be completed by 2023. One segment was to be a six-mile rail line from the Florida Turnpike east to the Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) while the other segment (11.2 miles) was to extend from the Palmetto through Miami International Airport and through downtown Miami to the Port of Miami."
Bay Link: "The Bay Link Corridor is proposed to be a 5.1-mile future light rail or streetcar segment from downtown Miami to South Miami Beach. This project was planned for completion after 2031."
Northeast Corridor: "This project is now known as the South Florida East Coast Corridor (SFECC) Project. The project was planned to be a 13.6-mile heavy rail corridor from downtown Miami along Biscayne Boulevard and the Florida East Coast Corridor to the Broward County Line at Northeast 215th Street.... The project is being managed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and was initially anticipated to be completed after 2031."
Rail Extension to Florida City: "This project has been renamed the South Dade Corridor and will consist of a 21-mile heavy rail, two-segment corridor south along US 1. The first segment was planned from the Dadeland South Metrorail Station south to Cutler Ridge while the second segment will be constructed from Cutler Ridge south to Florida City. This project was planned for completion after 2031."
"We're going to look at creative financing and private-public partnerships," Mr. Scurr said about the summit and getting the rail projects rolling. "We're going to need to bring all different kinds of people together."
He said the sales tax surcharge doesn't bring in enough money for the county to get the projects done on its own. "We're trying to make progress on the corridors," he said. "It's a continuation of what we're doing."
The trust and the plan got off to a rocky start 10 years ago, including a lack of staff.
In 2002, the plan promised free rides for seniors, free Metromover rides for everyone and up to 88.9 miles of new Metrorail. But financial holes at the county transit agency were plugged with surtax funds meant to add new service, as much of the money went to maintain what the county already had rather than build what was promised.
Commissioners committed much of the tax money before the trust was ever operational.
"It's easy to focus on the negative," Mr. Scurr said. "We have an oversight role."
He added there are eight people on the staff, not including the 15-member trust board. "We are very lean and mean," he said.
Patrice Koonce Rosemond, a spokesperson for the trust, said the trust has collected $1.71 billion through September. Of that, she said, $1.21 billion was transferred to the County Transit Department; $354.8 million to 34 municipalities; and $88.6 million to Public Works and Waste Management.
The trust cited achievements over the past decade that include:
Golden Passports totaling 200,033 (up 240% since 2002); and 7,844 Patriot Passports.
Metrorail Orange Line Extension to Miami International Airport.
Metromover riders totaling 9 million annually, a near doubling since 2002; and 29 new vehicles at a cost of $70 million.
Metrobus service now 24 hours; the purchase of 596 buses for $135 million; and 576 new bus shelters, bringing the total to more than 1,030.
New EasyCard automated fare collection system at a cost of $63 million.
Public Works road improvement in 700 projects totaling $70 million, and advanced traffic management systems in more than 2,700 county signals, totaling $58 million.
"There's a lot going on," Mr. Scurr said. "A lot of good things have come out."
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