Let’s get this show on the road, or the train on the track. Whatever.
The push for funding to bring Tri-Rail to downtown Miami is behind schedule. It’s critical that all the financial pieces fall into place, and quickly. A station that will deliver thousands of riders to the urban core is essential to allowing Miami to become the “world-class” city everyone pines for.
When members of the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency meet on Thursday to vote on funds for the Tri-Rail station, there should be no question the project is vital. The $3.75 million grant under consideration is a small investment compared to the dividends that the area stands to realize. In fact, the project is exactly what the CRA, made up of Miami commissioners, is in business to encourage.
Bringing Tri-Rail to downtown/Overtown means that commuters who live to the north will leave their cars at home. They won’t clog the interstate or city streets to get to work. It means that students, for whom gas prices and tolls really take a bite, can get to class more inexpensively, and that tourists in Palm Beach and Broward counties have an even greater incentive to head south, without having to negotiate parking and getting lost. And for those in town on business, Tri-Rail offers an easy in, easy out. For Overtown residents, it means greater access to jobs farther away from home.
It stands to be a transformative addition, helping to create new businesses and a more-vibrant Overtown, while depositing additional revenue into downtown enterprises. Tri-Rail will be a big step toward easing mobility challenges. As Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has said: “We are not going to ‘car’ our way out of this.”
But first, the funding.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which runs Tri-Rail, has four agreements — with the CRA, the Downtown Development Authority, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. The agreements are still in negotiations. They must be finalized soon if the downtown station is going to happen. The clock is ticking. The station is supposed to be built along with that of All Aboard Florida, which eventually is going to take passengers all the way to Orlando. AAF’s terminal already is under construction next to the Metrorail station at Government Center. So far, AAF has been patient, and, it is hoped, will grant Tri-Rail an extension to assemble funding.
Work on Tri-Rail needs to get started ASAP if it’s going to be operational by the end of 2016. Tri-Rail is making some quantifiable promises that should help the CRA move forward with approval, including job opportunities and free fares for low-income area residents.
Downtown Miami is plagued by transit challenges. The CRA should be part of the solution.