Given the upcoming meetings regarding the latest phase of the SFEC Corridor Study I thought it would be a good time to look back to my review of the project alternatives after last year’s initial presentation. I am curious how things have changed since then. From what I hear, the integrated solution that provides local and commuter service is being tossed for an exclusively commuter service….lets hope that is not the case.

Yesterday FDOT hosted a public meeting displaying their Phase 2 analysis for the FEC Corridor. Promising stuff, although I left with a few questions and concerns. The project team was interested and excited about the prospect of bringing some form of transit down this corridor, describing a higher than average projected ridership and amazing public support, and truly explaining the pros/cons of each alternative ( a welcomed change from other FDOT meetings I have attended where there was very little choice being given to attendees as project reps simply ram the preferred alternative down your throat). Unfortunately, as one project representative said (who wished to remain anonymous) the major problem with getting funding for construction will be the federal government’s hesitance at giving over $1 billion for construction, when local officials will not commit to continue funding the tri-rail service we already have. Can’t say I blame them.

For my money, I was impressed the alternative that offered both local and express service.  ‘Urban Mobility’  (Alternative B) would provide both local and express service using a combination of light rail and commuter rail, and would cost about $3.4-4.2 billion (for the full length of the 80 Miles).

Anther alternative I liked was the ‘Integrated Network’ solution (Alternative D) which would provide crucial new east/west connections between the FEC corridor and the airport Tri-Rail station. This alternative, while not as convenient for express service, was also less expensive at $2.9-3.6 billion. The cost difference attributed to building out the second track for express service.

My big concern (echoed by many people I spoke with around the room and after the meeting) is that the service stops at government center, missing the vital connection to the Port. Word on the street is that they have no intention of going to the Port because of engineering issues (which is total bs). Here we have within our reach the holy grail of Miami transit - a direct connection between the sea port and the airport - and FDOT wants to stop at the door . The FEC corridor already runs to the port - there is NO reason not to take it all the way in - not right-of-way issues, not engineering. No reason. Period. It will be a boon to the cruising industry who will be able to tell their customers that they no longer need to factor in a $50 round-trip taxi cab ride to and from the port (more money to spend on board - can anyone say more on-board revenue???)

So FDOT, listen closely. Here are my recommendations:

  • Combine alternatives B and D. We need express service and local service along the same alignment (without having to go west).
  • Connect to the airport tri-rail station. We want more connections - not less!
  • Connect to the sea port! This project cannot should not move forward without making that vital connection. As important as the tunnel is to the seaport, imagine what a passenger connection from the airport will do for our local cruising industry.
  • Move swiftly!! These are important moves you are making. Don’t delay!

The expected time line is: PDE preferred alternative chosen in the Spring of 2010, final study in Fall/Winter 2010, apply for federal funding 2011, begin design work/ROW acquisition late 2011/early 2012. Seems ridiculously long, doesn’t it? Sigh…

 

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9 Responses to Repost: FEC Corridor Update

  1. Anon says:

    It’s a pretty little study, and all the backward villages along the way say they want cute train stations, but where are the riders? Not within walking distance; they’ll have to drive to massive commuter garages. And when developers propose transit-oriented projects of sufficient density? NOT IN MY BACKYARD, BITCH! There goes community support, because density is not “compatible” and causes “traffic.” Given current land use patterns and planning procedures, ridership projections will fail and the state will default on any financing. If the state were smart, it would take over land planning along the corridor BEFORE it signs on the dotted line, so backward villages don’t stand in the way of the future.

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  2. IJR says:

    “The project cannot move forward without making that vital connection?” Nothing is better than something? Don’t get greedy now brother. Outrage breeds immoderation, which is the enemy of credibility. I agree on the “move swiftly” point.

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  3. TransitDave says:

    Too bad we don’t any funding from the PTP tax to fast-track a Miami-Dade portion of the corridor, that would make too much sense….Also, the link to the port is problematic, because it would tie up traffic downtown while the trains cross biscayne blvd, (Which is afterall the reasoning behind spending the Bil on the port tunnel)I have to agree with IJR, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough……Get the trains running, and worry about other connections later, and don’t forget that with the right type of light DMU design or light rail vehicle, their could be an interconnection with metrorail, and overlay the south dade leg of metrorail and run LRT trains from Dadeland south north to aventura and beyond, and give a seamless ride.

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  4. Brad K. says:

    I’m not really sure how criticial the port link is, as there are tradoffs for everthing. The FEC right of way is only about 60 feet wide from NW 1st ave to the port (limiting the ability to have both a passenger and a freight rail) and an at grade station needs to at ;east 500′ long for a platform, according to the consultants. In addition, the traffic disruption to attach to the port would be significant. What percentage of the projected riders will be going to the port? Why can’t we simply have a trolley for cruise passnegers? or walk like they do in every City around the world?

    The more worrying component, which you touched on, is the typical problem that the out of town consultants have more or less a preconcieved notion of what should be done, and really don’t listen to community and stakeholder input - what a surprise!

    For example, in a number of community workshops the general consensus was to have a main “Grand Central” station on the old arena site, possibly combining it with a beautiful central park. Thus the commuter rail could also assist in the redevelopment of a blighted area of downtown and be a beautiful welcome to our City. The consultant determined that this would not be feasible “because there is not 500′ between NW 6th and NW 8th”, and “the street layout does not allow this. Not true (there is 600′ between 6th and 8th) and the streets can be moved. The recommendation was to RAISE the tracks about 20 feet in the air to pass over 5th snd 6th streets to allow the station to be on 4th street. How much will this add to the total cost? Were is the cost benefit anlysis of the additional two blocks with the raised tracks?

    We really need to be vigilant on this as it wouldn’t be the first tiem an out of town consultant comes in and determines the future of our City against Community input!

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  5. Tony Garcia says:

    Here we are again, transit advocates, squabbling over whatever the higher powers give us. Don’t be ‘greedy’ some say, but with a five year horizon just to get design finished - I’m not being greedy, just holding the project to reasonable expectations. Not connecting to the sea port and air port is like ordering a cheeseburger, waiting an hour for it, and realizing when you get it that its missing the bread. Sorry guys, but stopping 500 feet shy of our second major employment center is plain stupid. It is not just the people coming by plane to ride the ships, but the people who live here and work at the port. The port carries 3.78 MILLION passengers a year (a large percentage of whom do not live here and would ride transit straight to the port if they could). The port employs 110,000 - imagine half of those people riding the train to work every day. We need to be smart about connecting our major employment centers - that is smart transit planning.

    Holding up traffic at Biscayne wouldn’t be a problem either - for such an important connection you just raise the tracks for the 500 feet between the beginning of Biscayne and the bridge. An investment, but worthwhile considering the ridership projections.

    Brad: In fact, the right-of-way is 70′ from NW 1st avenue, and they need 110′. So you are telling me that they couldn’t simply buy the relatively inexpensive 20′ on either side?? Really? They are buying ROW all up and down the corridor, why not here? And the platform is only 30′ shy of their ‘standard’ platform, but when you have such a vital connection to make, you make accommodations.

    Like I said above, apart from the lack of port connection, I think the plans are good (so far). I don’t see anything wrong with connecting to government center as long as they provide a stop at Park West. A Grand Central Terminal would be nice, but is the arena site really appropriate? I don’t think so. If the train stopped there then it would miss the major density of downtown.

    Transit Dave: Yes! Using technology that can utilize the existing Metrorail infrastructure is key!! Using PTP money for our portion would also be brilliant. You are right on as usual.

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  6. anonymous says:

    HOLD ON NOW… Tony, which ending point is going to serve more people, residents, and taxpayers? Getting to work Downtown (Govt Center) or going to play on a cruise? Once downtown this system seamlessly connects to MetroRail, MetroMover, and the Downtown Bus Terminal. What does the port connect to? the port.

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  7. Tony Garcia says:

    With annual passenger counts at 3.28 million, connecting the port is going to transit is going to serve plenty of people - tourists and residents alike (not to menton the thousands of people who actually work at the port). Sorry but supporting tourism should be our #1 priority, and providing this link to the port would help people get around town without a car. There is no reason not to connect to one of our largest money makers. We are talking about a minor connection whose benefits to the community would shadow its cost.

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  8. transitnerd says:

    I am impatient, but why does it take so effing long for them to do this? I’d kill to be able to ride to down town/ brickell from Miamishores. Le sigh…

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  9. UDB says:

    Has anyone been to any of the public hearings yet? We need to show support and make this happen! The Sun-Sentinel article about the FEC study in Thursday’s paper was pretty good, but the headline in the print version (on the front page, no less) was downright awful. It was an irresponsible headline (“A $2.5 Billion Transit System?”) and will probably draw tea baggers out of the woodwork. Ugh!

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