Legislative inaction imperils Tri-Rail link to Miami

The Tri-Rail Sheridan Street Station (Credit: Wikipedia.org)
The Tri-Rail Sheridan Street Station (Credit: Wikipedia.org)

Plans to extend the Tri-Rail passenger service to downtown Miami appeared doubtful following legislative inaction on a proposal to clarify liability for accidents on railways shared by trains that are publicly owned and privately owed.

The operator of Tri-Rail, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), wanted state legislators to put an amendment clarifying train-accident liability into a transportation bill. But the bill passed without the amendment.

SRFTA officials said enactment of the amendment would have been a crucial step in advancing plans to extend the publicly owned Tri-Rail service to downtown Miami via the privately owned Florida East Coast Railway.

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They said enactment the amendment was critically needed because TriRail already has made plans to build a passenger platform within the Miami train station that privately owned All Aboard Florida has started building for its Brightline rail service, expected to start operating by mid-2017.

With train-accident liability still uncertain, the Florida Department of Transportation may terminate its commitment to provide $20 million that Tri-Rail needs to extend service to downtown Miami, which, in turn, could discourage All Aboard Florida from including a Tri-Rail platform in its Miami station.

“We are deeply disappointed in the Legislature’s failure to act,” Jack Stephens, executive director of SFRTA, told the Miami Herald. “In the next week, we will explore what options — if any — to bring Tri-Rail to downtown.” [Miami Herald] — Mike Seemuth