Miami-Dade County

Miami city manager says downtown Tri-Rail deal is ‘close’

A Tri Rail train in this undated file photo. Tri Rail wants to expand to downtown Miami, and is pushing for a basket of public funds to make it happen.
A Tri Rail train in this undated file photo. Tri Rail wants to expand to downtown Miami, and is pushing for a basket of public funds to make it happen. Miami Herald

A deal to bring Tri-Rail’s commuter trains into downtown Miami is very close to happening, Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said Thursday.

Alfonso, speaking during Miami’s bi-monthly commission meeting, said his team of administrators has secured soft commitments or entered into discussions for almost all the $69 million Tri-Rail needs to connect to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks and build a terminus in All Aboard Florida’s MiamiCentral station in downtown.

“We have had some tough discussions at times. Our tempers have been tested. It’s been interesting. But I think we’re very close,” he said.

Alfonso said the city and Tri-Rail may soon have more than $67 million in commitments. But a potential hiccup lies in whether the county board that oversees funds from Miami-Dade’s half-cent sales tax approves spending more of that money. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust has signed off on spending $8.3 million of half-penny transit tax dollars, but County Mayor Carlos Gimenez offered another $5.5 million from that pot in a last-minute compromise with Miami leaders last month.

That deal was the result of veto threats by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and by the reluctance of some Miami commissioners to spend more of the city’s money on the project.

“It's very difficult to accept their cries of poor,” said Paul Schwiep, the trust’s chairman, who pointed to the city's own ample reserves of transit taxes. “It was really frustrating to me that it got bollixed up by Miami politics.”

The panel votes on the proposal for more money on May 20.

In other action Thursday, commissioners:

  • Approved a contract with an FIU professor to study a predictive policing program being adopted by Miami police that uses crime data to predict when and where crime is likely to occur.
  • Accepted park space from The Related Group next to the developer’s Icon Bay project in Edgewater. The developer swapped land with the city, creating a public park in exchange for a small sliver of waterfront land.

Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

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