The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority approved a plan yesterday to move forward with a local and express commuter rail along the famed corridor that once carried Flager’s train to Key West. The decision by the board will advance a “fast start” plan proposed by Tri-Rail administrators to leverage existing administrative costs and recently purchased locomotives to run service along the FEC line from Jupiter to Miami within 3-5 years.

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The plan is an answer to FDOT officials who had previously proposed giving the concession to run trains directly to the FEC company in an effort to privatize the system. Tri-rail planners, though, say this is not necessary as they are already 80% privatized and can run the service for half the price as the proposed FEC plan. “For the same [capital] cost as the FEC- FDOT plan, we can provide 56 trains on the FEC between downtown Ft Lauderdale and downtown Miami, while also providing connectivity with the rest of the region,” said Joe Quinty, Transportation Planning Manager with the SFRTA.

Under the “fast track” proposal, which will now go to the tri-county MPO’s for approval and further cost feasibility, trains would use the FEC line from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, with 7 stops in Miami-Dade County. Stops include 163 Street, 125 Street, 79 street, 54 Street, 36 Street, 11 Street/Overtown, and Government Center. As currently envisioned the plan would cost Tri-Rail an extra $15 million a year in operations costs by expanding existing contracts with Bombardier and Veolia. The FDOT plan would have cost $25 million a year and provided fewer stops in Miami-Dade County.

The project was approved 6-1, with the lone exception being FDOT District 6 representative Gus Pego. The plan envisions several types of service along the line, beginning with direct service between Ft. Lauderdale and downtown Miami. Regional service beyond Ft.Lauderdale will be established at Atlantic Boulevard, where a line connects the existing Tri-Rail tracks with the FEC service.

FDOT has been studying rail service along the FEC for years, with the latest SFECC Study looking at an integrated service, similar to what is being proposed, at a cost of over $2billion for the tri-county area. This plan hit a wall this spring when the Miami-Dade County MPO balked at moving forward with the study because of concerns over cost.

Tri-rail planners say that the fast track project is a way to get service running on the line as the South Florida East Coast Corridor study advances and addresses the MPO concerns. As currently planned, the service would not require any county or federal funds for operations or construction.

One third of the additional operational costs will come from farebox revenue from the new line, while the rest will come from a combination of Tri-Rail service adjustments, and yearly contributions from each of the 17 cities that will have stations of between $350,000 – $550,000. The capital cost to build the line is approximately $270 million, which will come from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Quinty went on to say,  “We believe this new SFRTA is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly (by avoiding the Federal project development process), provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds.”

14 Responses to Tri-Rail to Run FEC service by 2015

  1. Cody says:

    I can’t believe I’m reading this- THIS IS GREAT NEWS!! Finally! Thank you SFRTA for being proactive and pushing this! This is a great project for our city.

    One question though, does that mean that Tri-Rail service north of Fort Lauderdale (Atlantic Blvd) will still only be on the CSX line? If that’s the case, I think that’s a really smart move to consolidate service, because north of that, the CSX and FEC lines are just a couple feet apart at some points.

    Wonderful news! Let’s do this!

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  2. Cody says:

    Here’s a map of Tri-Rail with the new FEC (express and local lines): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tri_Rail_Proposal.jpg

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  3. Tony Garcia says:

    @Cody: yea the idea is to consolidate service on the CSX line above Atlantic Blvd. I will post images later today.

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  4. Brandt says:

    I’m not familiar with the rail lines in Miami-Dade county. I live around 135th and Biscayne, and I know that there is a rail line that runs parallel to Biscayne from 71st all the way up to Broward, and the same from 71st all the way down to the Port of Miami. Is this the FEC line, where the commuter service is being planned? I looked at the map and it seems so, but it doesn’t show the lines on a map, so I’m not sure.

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  5. Tony Garcia says:

    Yes that the same line.

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  6. Ellen says:

    What a shock that Pego voted “No”! Once this happens, I will put my house on the market and skedaddle out of Miami-Dade County and head north.

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  7. Brandt says:

    What a fantastic development! Currently, the fastest way to get to Downtown from North Miami/North Miami Beach without a car is bus 93 (Biscayne Max), which is slower than a bicycle during rush hour.

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  8. B says:

    Let’s hope it’s closer to 3 years, not 5! I will be a boon for development in the corridor, and for transit in South Florida.

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  9. christina morejon says:

    FINALLY! some good news in the infrastructure & transportation. =)

    cant come soon enough!!

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  10. Whisperjet says:

    Great reporting!

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  11. G-Man (Type E) says:

    This is freakin brilliant. Why do the stupid governor and stupid FingDOT want to spend $2billion in tax dollars – given to a private company to waste and not do any work for it. Oh yeah, cause they’re crooks!

    I remember going to a FEC meeting when I moved to Florida in 2006 – since then FDOT has kept a few dozen people employed scratching thier arse with no idea how to actually pull this off. And now here comes the little train that could – Tri-Rail- and they figured it out.

    A reasonable cost, a good plan, decent, experienced public agency oversight and private contractors who can be fired if they screw up. This is the kind of service the region actually needs to improve mobility. Huzzah! Now – if you are a legislator – get on board this train, or please go jump off a failing bridge.

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  12. Mike Moskos says:

    One thing I saw that I really liked (from a Sun Sentinel article): only those cities that want a station and are willing to pony up the funds for one, get one. No massive, top down system; this is bottom up which virtually ensures the stations will be better. Can you imagine a rail station (maybe even built/paid for by a private developer) where you could do some shopping on the way home? Maybe one with a farmers’ market? Yeah.

    PS: I’ve spent about 3 years riding Tri-Rail since it was first started. Years ago, virtually everyone who got off at my work stop was an IBM engineer.

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  13. Rog in Miami Gardens. says:

    This is definitely good news. I have been a tremendous fan of SFRTA from the beginning, and now, even more so!

    They are doing, essentially, what a regional transit authority is supposed to do, i.e.: stand up for the transportation needs of the ENTIRE region.

    Wonderful!

    Waiting with great interest on the MPO reports.

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  14. [...] “We believe this new [plan] is superior to FDOT’s approach, as it can be implemented quickly … provides better regional service coverage, and will not require any additional county or FDOT operating funds,” SFRTA transportation planning manager Joe Quinty told Transit Miami. [...]

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