Letters to the Editor

Funding at issue for SoBe light rail plan

The article by reporter Joey Flechas (“Residents have mixed feelings on SoBe light rail plan,” Aug. 21), omitted some perspective on federal funding that is important for citizens to understand.

The Miami Beach Commission heard from our staff and transportation consultants that federal funding was not a guarantee, it would take a very long time, and the process and conditions attached to such funding are very costly — not to mention that construction costs go up over time.

The commission had the courage to forge ahead to address residents’ number one quality of life complaint. The decision to build world class mass transit infrastructure in Miami Beach with or without federal support was made more than a year ago. We fully expect state and county funding as part of our overall funding model and have received preliminary assurances from both.

That being said, the city of Miami Beach is still concerning itself with federal funding implications. Meaningful traffic and congestion relief will not come from the Miami Beach Rail alone; it will come with connectivity across the bay into Miami, and would be enhanced with light rail expansions northward in Miami Beach. Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales has told me that access to federal funding for future expansions and Baylink are not affected by the environmental study for the South Beach Loop.

Therefore it is not a good use of taxpayer money today to do the more costly and time-consuming federal-funding-eligibility version of the environmental study; there is nothing to gain from it.

What could be a problem is if the proposed technology is not interoperable with Miami and Baylink, or the vendor cannot qualify for federal funding. That's why I demanded, and have received, written commitment from the Greater Miami Tramlink Partners that they will prove those capabilities during the interim agreement.

Miami Beach is under no obligation to proceed if we are not satisfied with the outcome of the interim agreement process, including interoperability, price, funding sources for the project, future federal funding eligibility, or any other reason.

John Elizabeth Alemán,

City of Miami Beach