Transportation planners have unveiled potential routes for a light rail link between Miami and Miami Beach with one line crossing Biscayne Bay over the MacArthur Causeway and another via the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said they prefer the rail go over the MacArthur Causeway, but Miami Beach transportation director José González said his city has not yet settled on a route.
This is a vital project for Miami-Dade County as congestion between the mainland and Miami Beach grows worse, Gimenez said. We dont want to talk about this for the next 20 years. We want to get this done.
It was the first time that potential route options for the light rail project were publicly discussed. The discussion came during a meeting of the Beach Corridor Transit Connection Study project executive committee. Gimenez chaired the meeting as head of one of the local governments and state agencies funding the $325,000 project study.
The 2013-2014 study builds on a 2004 project known as Baylink that did not go anywhere. That study envisioned construction of a $482.7 million light rail system from downtown Miami to South Beach, crossing the bay via the MacArthur Causeway.
The new project study indicates that the MacArthur Causeway alignment remains the preferred alternative, but now includes another possible route over the Julia Tuttle Causeway an Interstate 95 spur known as I-195. The Julia Tuttle option would also include an extension to Miami International Airport.
As for the MacArthur Causeway alignment, Gimenez said he wanted it simple, a straight connection from the Government Center transportation hub at County Hall downtown to the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The mayor said he was not interested in proposals for loops around downtown that could duplicate the existing Metromover service.
Miami Beach is interested in construction of a light rail loop around South Beach running from the Convention Center south to Fifth Street, said González, the Miami Beach transportation director. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine could not attend the meeting because of previous commitments, González said.
Costs and what type of trains will be used will be discussed at the committees March meeting.
Two other county commissioners attending Tuesdays meeting, Xavier Suárez and Dennis Moss, expressed different views on project alternatives.
Suárez initially said he favored the Julia Tuttle option, but later indicated he might be willing to embrace the MacArthur Causeway option. Moss said he also favored MacArthur Causeway.
In previous discussions, planners have expressed interest in running light rail trains modern incarnations of old streetcars in urban centers.
Light rail transit runs on steel tracks along fixed guideways. In the Miami-Miami Beach project, the trains would run at grade in downtown Miami and Miami Beach but would use elevated tracks along portions of the MacArthur Causeway.