Miami-Dade moves forward with multimillion-dollar Brightline deal

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On Friday, the Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing further discussions with Brightline, Florida East Coast Railway and the county to create a commuter rail.

The commuter train system would operate between downtown Miami and Aventura with as many as eight stations in Miami-Dade, and it could extend as far north as Jupiter if Brightline can arrange separate deals with Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Design District developer and property owner Craig Robins, Plaza Equity Partners Isaac Sklar, and Wynwood Business Improvement District chairman Albert Garcia were among those who spoke in favor of the resolution during Friday’s meeting. Miami-Dade County policy encourages mixed-use development near rapid transit corridors such as the proposed Northeast Corridor along the train tracks.

Under the resolution, the county would pay Brightline a lump sum of up to $50 million and an annual track access fee of up to $12 million a year for 30 years, in exchange for providing access to an affordable commuter rail train system. That commuter system will be separate from Brightline, an express train service operated by a subsidiary of Fortress Investment, which is owned by SoftBank.

Brightline, which runs between downtown Miami and downtown West Palm Beach, is expanding to Boca Raton, the Orlando airport, and Walt Disney World. The trains stopped operating in March due to the pandemic, and could restart before the end of the third quarter of next year, said Jose Gonzalez, senior vice president for Fortress subsidiary Florida East Coast Development.

The Tri-Rail commuter system operates west of I-95 between Miami International Airport and Magnolia Park in northern Palm Beach. It typically charges between $2.50 and $8.75 a ride.

Commissioner Sally Heyman said the resolution does not finalize financial obligations to Brightline.

The resolution approved by the Miami-Dade commission is much different than the one Brightline proposed in May, which envisioned the county paying Brightline a lump sum of $350 million to create a commuter system as well as five station, plus $29 million a year to allow commuter trains to run on the tracks, and up to $50 million a year to operate a commuter service. That proposal was rejected by county officials as too expensive.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, a state agency that oversees Tri-Rail, would likely operate the proposed commuter rail. A previous agreement between the county and Brightline already allows Tri-Rail to operate between MiamiCentral and a railway junction in Miami’s Little River neighborhood.

Tags: Brightline, Miami-Dade County, transportation

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