Tri-Rail has made progress trying to obtain funds to operate passenger trains out of downtown Miami but has not yet secured the money it needs to deliver the service, the Tri-Rail executive director said Tuesday.
As a result, the much-anticipated project is still up in the air and could require more time — beyond the July “drop-dead” deadline to decide on the viability of the service, according Jack Stephens, the Tri-Rail executive director.
“All of the agreements are still in what I would consider negotiation,” Stephens said during an appearance before the editorial boards of el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. “None of them have been finalized in ink yet. They are all in the process. I have not seen anything that would tell me that it’s dead.”
Remarks by Stephens suggest that Tri-Rail officials still feel confident they can secure the money the system needs to start operating passenger trains from downtown Miami in late 2016 or early 2017, but that they still cannot claim victory.
So far, Stephens said, promises of a little more than $27 million have been obtained from various government entities including the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. But still missing are two key pieces of funding, one for more than $20 million from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the other from Miami’s Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency for about $17 million.
The Tri-Rail plan, first outlined earlier this year, called for $69 million to implement the downtown Miami service. The amounts cited by Stephens on Tuesday do not amount to $69 million, but Tri-Rail officials said the figures remained “fluid” since none have been finalized.
If set in motion, the Tri-Rail trains would depart from the future downtown station of the Miami-Orlando passenger express train All Aboard Florida.
The Tri-Rail trains then would ride on Florida East Coast (FEC) railway tracks north to 71st Street in Miami. There, the Tri-Rail trains would follow the existing FEC track to the one that Tri-Rail already uses from Hialeah north to Palm Beach County.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy.