A controversial plan to open a new railroad crossing outside the Design District and close another in Little Haiti has been dropped, at least temporarily.
On Thursday, the Florida East Coast Railway withdrew an application to close the crossing where its tracks pass over 59th Street. The railway company had sought permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to close the passage, thereby giving it the ability under state rules to open a new railroad crossing on 42nd Street nearer the Design District.
The plan was driven by area property owners who want to avoid what they see as a looming traffic nightmare at the intersection where 36th Street meets North Miami Avenue and the railroad tracks. The fear is that the already unwieldy intersection will become gridlocked starting this summer when All Aboard Florida begins running its 16 daily Miami-to-Orlando Brightline trains up and down the east coast.
Based on traffic studies commissioned by Design District developer DACRA, the Florida East Coast Railway believed 36th Street traffic could be alleviated with a new crossing, and also painlessly diverted from 59th Street. But the plan alarmed residents and property owners in and around Little Haiti, who worried it would exacerbate traffic around their properties and in their neighborhood.
Peter Ehrlich, who owns property on 59th Street, said traffic problems last week caused by the temporary closing of a crossing at 79th Street show how important it is to keep the crossing open. “As the Upper East Side and the entire Biscayne Corridor becomes even more popular, we know we need more crossings, not less.”
Laura Regalado, the official in charge of railroad openings and closings for the Florida Department of Transportation, said a new application has not been received. But Craig Robins, the CEO of DACRA, said FEC has only withdrawn its application temporarily in order to allow for more time to contemplate whether 59th Street remains the best option, or if a different intersection should be targeted.
“Nothing has happened other than we’ve decided to look for alternatives to pick what’s best for the community,” he said.