Aventura commissioners say they support a proposed new commuter rail line serving South Florida’s coastal cities, but they’re concerned about how passenger trains would impact traffic on already busy streets such as Miami Gardens Drive and Ives Dairy Road.
“We are in favor of mass transit, but it has got to be resolved,” Mayor Susan Gottlieb said after commissioners heard a presentation about the rail line on April 17.
Joseph Quinty, transportation planning manager for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, said traffic simulations and train scheduling will be examined to alleviate traffic concerns during the next step of the project, which is a two-year development phase that will also include financial planning, environmental analysis and preliminary engineering.
“Cities are very supportive of the project, but there are financial and technical details they want further information on,” Quinty said. “Our job for the next two years is to figure that out, share them with the community and make sure everyone is on board.”
Quinty’s agency also operates Tri-Rail along Interstate 95. But unlike the existing Tri-Rail line, the new route would take travelers directly to and from coastal cities with growing urban populations and large concentrations of downtown offices.
According to Qunty, the new line would take commuters from Aventura to downtown Miami in 29 minutes. It would use Florida East Coast Railway tracks from Miami to Jupiter.
The 85-mile route has a proposed completion date of 2020.
The proposed Aventura station would be across from the north end of the Aventura Mall, where the railroad tracks run parallel to Biscayne Boulevard, Quinty said. There could be a bridge across Biscayne Boulevard to help passengers cross the busy street.
Passenger service on the FEC tracks has been discussed for decades, but the FEC has not always supported it.
“Now that the railroad is directly involved with us it has brought a lot of legitimacy and made people a lot more excited,” Quinty said.
The FEC is now sponsoring its own daily passenger service, All Aboard Florida, a privately funded project that would connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to Orlando. It is expected to be operational in 2016, Quinty said.
The new Tri-Rail project, dubbed Tri-Rail Coastal Link, would share the railroad tracks constructed for All Aboard Florida but would need to construct a few new tracks in Broward County, Quinty said. The project would also include the construction of train stations and the purchase of passenger trains.
“It is great that our projects complement each other,” Quinty said. All Aboard Florida “wants our service to help circulate people to other destinations. It makes our service better having this great inter-city service to complement it as well.”
The initial construction cost of the Tri-Rail project is expected to be $720 to $800 million, which will be funded through federal, state and local governments. There is also an expected annual operating and maintenance cost of $33 to $38 million. The transportation authority is looking for a source of money for that purpose.