Tri-Rail wants to bring its commuter rail service to downtown Miami. The catch: It says it needs $69 million in funding to make the project happen.
During a round-table talk on Tuesday, officials discussed ways to get Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami on board.
The plan, which Tri-Rail has developed over the past few months, is to connect the CSX tracks the group currently uses to All Aboard Florida’s upcoming rail station near the Metromover Government Center hub. Tri-Rail said it would build a separate, but side-by-side station next to All Aboard Florida’s platform. The proposed connection would give Tri-Rail’s nearly 400,000 monthly riders direct access to downtown Miami without having to switch to the Metrorail.
Members of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and All Aboard Florida discussed the plan’s issues at the presentation.
The commuter service’s window of opportunity is shrinking, said Jack Stephens, executive director of the SFRTA, as the addition has to be finalized before All Aboard Florida’s station is built. The station will be the first leg of All Aboard Florida’s planned Miami to Orlando railway and is expected to open in late 2016.
Tri-Rail says it hopes to get roughly $17 million in funding from Florida’s Secretary of Transportation for infrastructure to go alongside the $3 million Tri-Rail has already sunk into the Positive Train Control system needed to run the track.
Stephens said the plan hinges on the county and city putting up the remaining $48 million needed to move forward. However, All Aboard Florida has pledged that if the officials commit to the funding, All Aboard will front the cost for the project in the interim.
The $69 million price tag is a bargain, Stephens said, compared to how much it would cost for the organization to buy its own land in the downtown area and build a separate station. He added that if the plan goes through, Tri-Rail trains could start running to downtown in as early as two years.
“We have been working with every public body we can work with to identify the source of these funds,” he said. “This has to happen now or it’s never going to happen.”