This post was produced by Open Media Miami, an independent company that works in partnership with Beached Miami to cover neighborhood news along the Biscayne Corridor.
With two government transportation agencies pushing hard for an expansion of passenger rail in South Florida, a new commuter train may soon be chugging through downtown Miami.
As reported by El Nuevo Herald, the Florida Department of Transportation recently proposed a short-term plan to start a passenger route from downtown to Fort Lauderdale using the Florida East Coast Railway, which runs parallel to U.S. 1 (Biscayne Boulevard/Brickell Avenue) in Miami-Dade County and is currently being revamped to transport cargo. The FDOT plan calls for six stations along the route and would cost around $300 million.
The department’s long-term goal is a regional route from Miami to Jupiter, which in total could cost $1 billion, FDOT’s mobility development manager Amie Goddeau said during a town hall meeting on Oct. 18.
At the same time, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), the agency that manages Tri-Rail, is pushing its own proposal for an expansion of the FEC railway. The Transportation Authority says its plan to connect Miami to Jupiter via passenger rail would cost $270 million — $730 million less than FDOT’s — and take between three and five years to complete.
“We believe this new [plan] is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly … provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds,” SFRTA transportation planning manager Joe Quinty told Transit Miami.
Under its proposal, the Transportation Authority would manage the expanded FEC route itself, thereby minimizing new administrative costs, and part of Tri-Rail’s train fleet would connect to the FEC line at a Pompano Beach switch point. The agency’s plan envisions seven stations — at 163rd Street, 125th Street, 79th Street, 54th Street, 36th Street, 11th Street/Overtown, and Government Center — and 26 trains running every day between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Thanks to the FEC-Tri-Rail switch at Pompano Beach, 26 trains would also run daily between Mangonia Park, in West Palm Beach, and downtown Miami. Another six trains would run between Miami and Jupiter along the FEC line every day.
The Transportation Authority’s biggest challenge going forward is that it still needs to get approval from the FEC itself. After that, the agency would have to present its proposal to the tri-county metropolitan planning organizations.
FDOT, on the other hand, already has FEC’s support and will present its plan to the Miami-Dade planning organization in February.
Whichever agency may end up getting the go-ahead to expand the FEC line, the project would impact Miami residents who struggle to get around their sprawling city.
“This would help me a lot because I live near the FEC line and I would just have to walk a few blocks to take the train,” Luis Maldonado, an aspiring rapper who doesn’t own a car, told El Nuevo Herald in an interview by the train tracks, on the intersection of 36th Street and Federal Highway. “That would save me time and money.”
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