Almost a decade after a project to build a rail line between Miami and Miami Beach stalled, the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization on Thursday unanimously approved funding for a study that could revive the plan.
The MPO, the transportation planning panel that includes county commissioners and other elected officials, acted after Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez urged approval of the study as a way to ease traffic on roads linking Miami and Miami Beach.
“If we don’t do something about traffic in Miami Beach, it’s going to kill the tourism industry,” Gimenez told MPO members during their monthly meeting at County Hall.
The vote marked the first time since 2004 — when the old Bay Link proposal died — that official interest has been revived in the project. Bay Link would have connected South Beach to downtown Miami via a light-rail system over the MacArthur Causeway.
The cost of the nine-month, $325,000 study will be covered by six partners — $150,000 from the MPO, $75,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation, and $25,000 each from Miami-Dade Transit, the city of Miami, the city of Miami Beach, and the Downtown Development Authority.
The goal of the report, titled “Beach Corridor Transit Connection Study”, is to “update and refine past studies” that examined possible transit links between Miami and Miami Beach, according to documents released by the MPO.
The MPO documents refer to the previous Bay Link proposal, noting that it was derailed because of concerns about funding and whether other transit corridors should be given higher priority.
During debate Thursday on the new study, some commissioners said that although they supported the request, they wanted to revive interest in studying anew the option of building the so-called North Corridor rail line along Northwest 27th Avenue to Sun Life Stadium and the Broward County line, where it becomes University Drive.
“I would like to bring back the North Corridor,” said County Commissioner Barbara Jordan.
As outlined in the MPO documents, a consultant selected to conduct the study will review several rail options, including so-called “catenary-free technologies” that do not require overhead electricity lines for streetcars or light rail.
Late last year, employees of the Spanish railway company FEVE met with Miami Beach representatives to review the option of an electric streetcar free of overhead lines, or catenaries, as they are formally called.
The company runs such a service in Seville, Spain. The MPO documents released Thursday refer to the Seville system.
The desire of operating a rail system between Miami and Miami Beach has been around for a long time. Currently, , all of the rail systems are on the mainland.
Miami-Dade Transit operates Metrorail, which has two lines, including one to Miami International Airport, as well as Metromover, which has loops linking downtown Miami to business areas to the north and south of downtown.