An artist’s rendering of a massive elevated station now under construction in downtown Miami points the way to the future.
It shows the location of planned passenger boarding platforms for Tri-Rail and a Miami-Orlando train. The cross section of the future MiamiCentral station rising near the Miami-Dade County government building shows two platforms for Tri-Rail and three for the Miami-Orlando service.
Tri-Rail officials released the diagram in connection with a recent South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) board vote that moved forward the innovative plan to bring commuter rail service to downtown Miami.
Pompano Beach-based SFRTA operates Tri-Rail, the commuter service that links Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties on tracks running through suburbs west of Interstate 95.
Under the plan the SFRTA board approved, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would build a spur to link the suburban Tri-Rail tracks to tracks in densely-populated urban areas east of I-95 that are currently used by freight trains.
In a vote Dec. 11, the SFRTA governing board preliminarily agreed to terms with companies that run the cargo trains and are building the Miami-Orlando station outlining the rights and responsibilities of all parties in bringing commuter rail service downtown along the rail corridor east of I-95.
These terms, subject to final approval, will ultimately allow the existing Tri-Rail service to connect to downtown Miami.
“The vote brought the project closer to reality,” said Jack Stephens, the SFRTA executive director. “It’s going to take a little bit more time, but we’ll get it done”.
Stephens told el Nuevo Herald in September that the downtown service “is going to happen.”
However, there are still some steps that need to be taken in order for the trains to start rolling by 2017 — as planned.
They include delivery of about $20 million in FDOT funds to assist SFRTA in completing the project, and a bill in the state Legislature to guarantee insurance and indemnification.
The Tri-Rail downtown service would be essentially an extension of the existing suburban service.
This service runs from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Mangonia Park Station in Palm Beach County.
At the point where Tri-Rail tracks intersect the east-west freight train tracks belonging to Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), FDOT plans to build the spur to connect both sets of tracks.
This will make possible the downtown service because the spur would — for the first time — connect the existing Tri-Rail tracks west of I-95 to the FEC freight train tracks east of I-95.
The spur is to be built just south of the Tri-Rail station that currently provides a connection to Metrorail near Hialeah. The FEC track at the location run eastward to link up with another FEC track that runs southward alongside Biscayne Boulevard to PortMiami.
Eventually workers will extend that track a few blocks to the site near the Miami-Dade County building where the MiamiCentral station is being built downtown. That’s where Tri-Rail and the Miami-Orlando passenger train will operate.
FDOT’s $17.2 million contribution toward expansion of Tri-Rail service, plus its permission for Tri-Rail to reprogram up to $3.1 million for costs associated with Tri-Rail station improvements is still pending.
Other local partners, however, have stepped to cover the bulk of costs of bringing Tri-Rail to downtown Miami.
These partners include the City of Miami and associated community agencies as well as Miami-Dade County and the Downtown Development Authority.
Their contributions cover about $43.6 million.
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy