Happy new year blogosphere! Transit Miami is back and better than ever with a tough agenda on the way for 2011. While we are excited about the coming year we didn’t want to move on without looking back at the top 5 events (in our opinion) which rocked our local planning and transportation world in 2010.
5. FL High Speed Rail
With the Obama Transportation policy reform in full swing, Florida’s Tampa-Orlando HSR link emerged as a big winner, securing over $2 Billion in federal funds and virtually guaranteeing the initial 84 mile corridor’s completion in 2015. Despite the near 100% funding commitment from the feds, this project almost faced a similar fate as the Ohio and Wisconsin HSR plans which were scrapped by incoming Republican Governors late this year. Incoming Republican Gov Rick Scott has pledged to fully evaluate the fiscal viability of the line and is awaiting a feasibility study due in February before deciding whether to accept the federal funds.(barf )
4. Construction begins on the Port of Miami Tunnel
At the end of 2009, things were starting to look bleak for the $1 Billion Port of Miami Tunnel intended to divert truck traffic out of Miami’s downtown streets and onto the highway. With funding in place, the port tunnel quietly broke ground in the summer of 2010, finally bringing the 20+ year old concept into reality. The 1 mile tunnel will link Dodge and Watson Islands, providing the estimated 7,000 trucks and countless other vehicles which access the port daily with new, direct access; reducing congestion, and eliminating much truck traffic that would otherwise use normal downtown streets to get to I95. The tunnel is expected to be completed in 2014.
3. Tragedy on the Rickenbacker Causeway
The year got off to a rough start for South Florida Cyclists with the tragic death of Christophe Le Canne on the Rickenbacker Causeway. Le Canne, a 44 year old local cyclist and photographer was killed by a drunk driver on the morning of January 17. His death struck a nerve in growing cycling community. South Florida cyclists gathered like never before in a massive display of solidarity. With an estimated 2,500 cyclists in attendance, the Christophe Le Canne memorial ride (see video below), while tragic, echoed the collective sentiment of cyclists fed up with the status quo. Transit Miami issued a set of design and policy recommendations for the Rick in 2010, and we will continue to meet with elected officials and stakeholders to make the causeway the multimodal parkway we know it could be.
2. FDOT heeds Brickell Community Concerns; more must be done
One of Transit Miami’s big projects this year was the campaign to improve pedestrian and cyclist conditions on Brickell. We organized residents, community groups, business interests, and elected officials to come together to speak with one voice to tell FDOT to make Brickell more pedestrian friendly as they move forward with street redesign and drainage improvement plans. We took field trips with FDOT to show them how unsafe they were desiging the road, and we let them square off with community residents and stakeholders in a meeting that left them looking careless and silly. FDOT eventually agreed to lower the speed limit, add several new crosswalks, and include shared-use arrow (sharrow) markings on the outside lane for cyclists - but more still needs to be done. We are not going to stop until FDOT designs the street to take into account all users, and more than that, places automotive Level of Service at the bottom of a long list of other more important factors (like pedestrian and cyclist safety).
1. Miami 21
After a tumultuous 4 years of public comment, hysterics, and misinformation, Miami 21 was officially implemented in 2010. We here at Transit Miami joined forces with the City of Miami in 2006 in full support of the plan, working closely with commissioners and city officials to help promote the virtues of a solid, form-based zoning code. The revolutionary work in Miami hasn’t gone unnoticed; since its adoption in May, Miami 21 has been the recipient of numerous awards including the American Planning Association (APA) Florida Chapter Award of Excellence, the American Architecture Award, and the Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award. The code has its issues, including excessively high parking requirements (championed by NYMBY groups) and a general lack of T4 around town, but these are issues we will continue to address in the coming years. We remain committed partners with the City of Miami Planning Department, and look forward to seeing how the code works with our existing transit investments to help Miami get through its urban growing pains.
Here is to a healthy and prosperous 2011! Cheers from the Transit Miami team.
7:00 pm, Thursday, June 17, 2010, Miami Beach Botanical Garden – please circulate this email to friends in the neighborhood
Representatives of Florida Dept of Transportation, Miami Dade County Causeway administration, Cities of Miami Beach and Miami Commissioners, County Commissioners, and other county and city representatives will be here to answer questions and share plans to protect our residential neighborhood.
Please attend this very important meeting.
Meeting sponsored by the Venetian Islands Homeowners Association, Venetian Causeway Neighborhood Alliance, and Belle Isle Residents Association
Friend of Transit Miami Erik Maza over at the New Times did an article a few days ago about the Port Tunnel that spurred a response from Transit Miami writer Felipe Azhena over the value of the Port Tunnel. While I agree with many of their points and I have been a critic of this project for many years, I have to chime in here to offer a counterpoint to the idea that the Port Tunnel does not have value.
Ahhh, my love/hate relationship with the Port Tunnel. I’ll start by saying that I support the Port 100%. As one of the major economic generators of the region I think that the economic health of this region is partly derived from the health of the Port. Adding the tunnel will improve access to the Port, and thus add value to the port in the long term- regardless of the ploys used by politicians to make it a reality. The tourists and trade it produces are vital to the economic health our community. V-I-T-A-L. Considering competition from other regional ports and the expansion of the Panama Canal, it is only natural that we improve mobility to/from the port to improve our competitiveness.
My big problem with the Port Tunnel has less to do with the tunnel itself, and more to do with the fact that the true scope of this project includes I-395. Current thinking is that after the tunnel is complete all the traffic is going to be diverted to I-395, increasing congestion and leading to the construction of a revamped I-395 superhighway (which is probably going to be really nice from aerial photos, but will further hinder redevelopment of an already blighted area). The real Port Tunnel Project is well over $3 billion when considering both the tunnel and subsequent superhighway that will need to be constructed. A better solution would be to tunnel the highway, and coordinate with the proposed East/West metrorail subway.
Apart from the economic benefits of expanding access to/from the Port, the tunnel should be seen by transit advocates in South Florida as a way of convincing local leaders that a subway tunnel system can work here. Not to mention we are going to have a couple of huge boring machines especially made for our unique bedrock. I don’t think we will can just put them on craigslist. Why not put them to good use?
A recent article in the Miami New Times compares the Port of Miami Tunnel project to the Big Dig in Boston. For those of you that are not familiar with the Big Dig, it was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. In 1985 the cost of the project was estimated to be $4 billion; the Big Dig project ended up costing $22 billion when it was finally completed in 2005. The Port of Miami Tunnel project is estimated to cost $1 billion dollars. It quietly broke ground last week and is expected to be completed by 2014.
These two projects differ greatly. The most recent issue of Next American City covered the positive impacts of the Big Dig and how this huge infrastructure project had a positive impact on Boston and transformed the city by reconnecting areas which were previously bisected by elevated trains and highways. Peter Vanderwarker, author of The Big Dig: Reshaping an American City had this to say about the Big Dig:
You’ve liberated 100 acres of land in the middle of one of the most historic cities in the United States. You’ve removed cars and pollution from to surface.”
Boston now is a different city.
The old road was noisy, dirty smelly and ugly. [Its removal} has transformed neighborhoods. In the North End, businesses are flourishing and because of improved access, South Boston is now a very attractive place-sort of like Brooklyn of Boston.”
As is the case here in Miami, many Bostonians were skeptical if the Big Dig was worth the large investment. Today many of the skeptics in Boston may now agree that the Big Dig has made Boston a better city.
I am admittedly skeptical of the Miami Port Tunnel project and the only thing that I believe the Big Dig and the Port of Miami Tunnel project will share in common is cost overruns. So I think it is unfair to compare the two; the scope of each project is very different. The Big Dig transformed Boston into a more livable city. This massive project reclaimed once dilapidated areas and created 27 acres of parkland. The Miami Port Tunnel on the other hand is just that; a tunnel.
I don’t believe the Miami Port Tunnel will have the same transformative effect on downtown as many in Miami claim. Yeah, we will remove a few trucks from downtown, but what else will this billion dollar project deliver? Quicker access to the port for trucks? Removal of trucks from downtown? We can remove the trucks from downtown by creating an inland port that could be connected by the existing rail line for a fraction of the price.
Is the investment really worth it?
According to the Department of Transportation, in 1992 32,000 vehicles entered the port every day. Today, that number has declined to 19,000, and only 16 percent of that traffic is trucks. Apparently the Port of Miami is losing business to Port Everglades which happens to be much larger and access to Port Everglades is much easier for truckers according to the Miami New Times.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the Port of Miami can handle post-panamex ships either. I believe Port Everglades may already have this capability, or will in the near future. In order for the Port of Miami to handle post-panamex ships the port would need to be dredged in order to accommodate the new larger ships which are coming online.
For the most part, it sounds like Port Everglades already holds a competitive advantage over the Port of Miami; a tunnel will not help close the gap. The Port of Miami will never handle the capacity of cargo that Port Everglades can, nor should it strive to.
Much like Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere, we here in Miami have a billion dollar Tunnel to Nowhere.
The Miami Herald is reporting that the FDOT Port of Miami tunnel project will break ground in June. FDOT currently has three megaprojects in the works in South Florida. Check out the FDOT video plugging the Port of Miami tunnel project. From the looks of it pedestrians and bicyclists were not considered in the design of the port tunnel/MacArthur Causeway.
- $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel project
- $1.7 billion Miami Intermodal Center near Miami International Airport
- $1.8 billion reconstruction of Interstate 595 in Broward County.
It’s sad to see that FDOT has money to spend on theses megaprojects, yet it can’t come up with money for bike lanes on Sunset Drive. This goes to show where their priorities lie.
In other news, the US Military is warning that by 2015 oil demand will outstrip supply bringing us one step closer to peak oil. Perhaps FDOT should spend their money more wisely on projects which do not depend on cheap oil.
The City of Miami’s plan to finance their portion of the global agreement hit a roadblock last week when the County Commission deferred the approval of a findings of necessity study which declares Watson Island and Bicentennial park to be “irreversible slum and blight”. It is rumored that the Commission did not have enough votes to pass the controversial and potentially, illegal plan.
The plan, approved by the Miami City Commission, constitutes three steps:
- A Findings of Necessity study declaring Bicentennial Park and Watson Island to be slum and blight. The report, completed in May 2009 by Guillermo Olmedillo, concluded that “the existing conditions of slum and blight, if left unattended, will continue to flourish within the Study Area and beyond into the existing Omni Redevelopment Area and adjacent neighborhoods. These serious and growing conditions of slum and blight constitute an economic and social liability to the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, and will impose onerous burdens including increased consumption of the municipal and County revenues for public services, such as to public safety, transportation, and infrastructure within the Study Area”
- Modify the ONMI Redevelopment plan to expand the boundaries of the Community Redevelopment Area to include Watson Island and Bicentennial Park (CRA monies cannot be legally spent outside the CRA boundaries), specifically mention the Port Tunnel, Streetcar, and Museum Park as desirable projects for “redevelopment”
- Issue $100-150 million in bonds against future Tax increment revenues and use the funds to finance the City of Miami’s obligation to contribute $50 million to the Port Tunnel, $20 million for the Miami Streetcar and up to $75 million to the Museum Park project.
The item is scheduled on the County Commission agenda for November 17 as a public hearing. Hopefully they will take their responsibility to regulate the Redevelopment Agencies seriously. This would involve ensuring that the proper procedures and citizen participation occurs this time around as well as investigating the legal and moral issues surrounding the issues of redirecting money from the poor to fund mega projects for the rich.
Here we are in a financial crisis that is tearing apart our city services, and the city is still moving forward with plans to spend millions of dollars it doesn’t have on an expensive Port Tunnel it doesn’t need. This is exactly the same type of mismanagement of taxpayer dollars that produced the stadium deal, and that led to the current fiscal crisis. Rather than saving money, every last bit of capital the city has (and even some that it doesn’t have) are going to go into pushing the tunnel. Local cargo and transportation experts will tell you that the Port Tunnel is essential to competing with the Panama Canal expansion when it opens in 2014, but a recent MPO study championed by Commissioner Joe Martinez shows that the rail alternative would be just as good and could be coupled with a passenger rail line that would finally connect the airport to the - something that would make the port much more competitive than the Port Tunnel. Inside information at the port reveals that traffic is down (no kidding), but the city presses ahead - squeezing the police, firefighters, and every other union it can find for a few million dollars. I urge the commissioners to rethink this expenditure in light of our current fiscal problems, and the availability of better alternatives.
PS. Don’t let dollar amounts fool you. Original estimates for the port tunnel were in the range of $1.5 -$2 billion, but now officials estimate that the cost will be $600 million. Hmmm…so the expansion of a normal highway (like I-395) will cost $500 million, but a tunnel running under Government Cut will only cost slightly more. Really? Sounds like fuzzy accounting to make the tunnel seem like the cheaper alternative. Why not redo the rail estimates as well to see how much lower they come in. And while you are at it, include in the cost of the port tunnel the price of the I-395 super expansion ($600 million), because the only reason that is moving forward is to accommodate the increase in truck traffic from the tunnel.
More and more people are talking about upgrading rail access to the port as a low cost ($30 million) alternative to the billion dollar Port Tunnel. Rail traffic would be able to cross Biscayne on the FEC tracks with little impact to traffic by efficiently coordinating traffic lights with freight schedules. Check out this MPO Study. Kudos to Commissioner Joe Martinez for pushing this alternative to the Port Tunnel. The beauty of this proposal is that it can be coordinated with the plan to use the FEC tracks for passenger rail. That project is currently in the planning phase, and is about 5 years away.
Now that the Port Tunnel is fading away, lets use that money for the East/West Orange line (connecting FIU-MIA-Orange Bowl-the Port)!
Two big infrastructure projects are back in the picture as the FDOT has resurrected the Port Tunnel deal while quietly trying to build support for the reconstruction of I-395 as a super elevated highway. The tunnel project, touted as the remedy for removing truck traffic from downtown streets, was all but dead until FDOT Director Stephanie Kopelousos approved new cash backers. Friends of Transit Miami have also alerted us that FDOT District 6 is quietly reaching out to Overtown residents to build support for their prefered alternative of a $580 million super elevated highway, saying it will reconnect the neighborhood that was devastated by the construction of the existing I-395 nearly 60 years ago.
Too bad FDOT. A billion here, half a billion there. Seems like they love to play with monopoly money, all the while playing down the benefits of the most logical answer: to depress the highway opening up acres of expensive downtown land. The $800 million price tag for removing the highway will be offset by the newly vacant (and taxable) downtown blocks, while nixing the tunnel in favor of using existing rail will save the state (and us taxpayers) over a billion dollars. Check out this great article detailing the I-395 options. I’ll post more on this in the coming days. No public meetings have been set yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we know.
- The next phase of the Metrorail extension hasn’t even broken ground and already the cost overruns have begun. This time Parson’s is looking for an additional $13 million in “Consultant fees.” I’m not specifically implicating that Parsons has something to do with this, but, I find it intriguing that nearly every project they’ve worked on locally (Miami Intermodal Center, MIA North Terminal, MIA South Terminal, PAC, Boston’s Big Dig, etc.) has come in way over budget. Is there something we don’t know, or is it really that easy to bilk the county out of money once you’re hired to do contracting/engineering/management work? I guess choosing the French construction giant Bouygues Travaux Publics, wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
- Top issues for Kendall this year? Forget Cityhood, how about congestion, lots of it. It’s only getting worse too as years pass and opportunities for real transit come and go (Tri-Rail Kendall link anyone?) If the Kendall community fears Tri-Rail trains traveling down an existing ROW behind their houses or an “unsightly” elevated rail down Kendall drive is going to lower their property values, just wait and see the nose dive congestion will cause. At least the recent efforts have paused (momentarily) foolish FDOT hopes of expanding Killian to 6 lanes west of 137th Avenue. Perhaps Kendall residents are beginning to realize that the car isn’t a viable solution…
- Like him or not, Manny Diaz has a Vision. We’ll dig into this much more in depth soon…
- FIU is attempting to lure MLS to campus, we’ll see what effect, if any, this has on the plans to build a new stadium at the OB site.
- I’m liking the looks of a final panel report on the UDB. Key part of this would require 3/4 of commissioners to move the line for projects and would bring in an outside firm to redraw the line.
- Live Nation is set to bring yet more events to Bayfront Park. Can’t a Park just be a Park? I’m not arguing against the Museums, those are neccessary, but why does Bayfront need so many attractions to make it successful? I think the park would induce more local use if there was less cement and far more shade trees, just a thought…
- The Federal DOT has given MDT a grant to purchase 16 hybrid express buses for the new HOT lane project on I-95. The buses will travel from downtown Miami to Ft. Lauderdale. Now can we please modernize the system and implement farecards (and new machines) that are transferable on all 3 local agencies?
- Don’t ride Transit, Buy a BMW…No seriously, Norman Braman wants you to buy a BMW and skip out on urban life…Oh, more on this soon…However, please follow this link for some laughable signs of hypocrisy…
- Gasp! This first paragraph says it all: “The [Palmetto Bay] Village Council approved a special permit allowing a new commercial development to put all of its parking spaces on the street at a zoning hearing Monday.” Note: A special permit. I know this is a young, incorporated bedroom community and all, but seriously, can we get some logical planning oversight around there? (In Case you missed it, we’re glad to see the use of on street parking in this and other bedroom communities…This shouldn’t be a special instance, but, rather the norm….)
- Watering rules in effect now till forever. Green lawns aren’t a necessity folks…
- Everything is bigger in Texas, especially carbon pollution…Take that Environment!
- Cape Cod wind farm moves one crucial step closer to disturbing a bunch of rich folks’ “pristine” views…
My name is Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal; I am a transportation engineer, urban planning student, and local sustainable planning advocate from transitmiami.com. I am here today to voice my unconditional support for the plan sitting before you; a plan that will revolutionize the city of
and will make urban life a real possibility for more county residents. Miami
streetcar will serve a vital role in the future development of our city. It will serve as an economic catalyst for the entire county by guaranteeing mobility where it is needed most; our downtown core. Contrary to the suburban sprawl most of this commission voted in favor of a few weeks prior, the streetcar will allow the county and city to continue growing in an ecologically and financially sustainable manner for years to come. I cannot begin to quantify the economic benefits our entire community will experience through this measure. Most importantly, the streetcar provides the means with which to construct some truly affordable housing, located within easy reach and facilitating life not governed by the economic constraint of owning a vehicle for personal independence. Miami
The benefits the
tunnel will provide are twofold: providing direct easy access to and from our second largest economic engine and perhaps more importantly, ridding our newly emerging downtown urban center of the traffic, smog, and noise pollution produced by these vehicles daily. The reduction of these nuisances in our city center will foster a hospitable urban environment. portof Miami
An unprecedented resolution sits before you today aimed at simultaneously solving some of the transit, infrastructure, and societal needs of this community. As is the case with most plans of this size, it isn’t without its share of flaws; however, the economic and intangible benefits these upgrades will produce should be enough to outweigh any of your reservations. I ask that the commission take the necessary steps today to propel
into a new, sustainable future. Miami
Streetsblog: London street closings a resounding success
Huffington Post: Fighting fat and climate change
George Monbiot: The western appetite for biofuels is causing starvation in the poor world
Miami Herald: Push for Miami port tunnel funding begins
Miami Today News: Soccer may join Marlins on Orange Bowl land
An ambitious plan from City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz . What answer will the commission deliver?
Posted on Thu, Dec. 13, 2007
Financing plan would bypass votersBy LARRY LEBOWITZ AND MICHAEL VASQUEZMiami city and county leaders have forged a multibillion-dollar public-works bonanza that could alter the face of the downtown core — affecting everything from a baseball stadium to a port tunnel to museums.
The plan, coming together with rare speed in the world of governmental red tape, envisions a holiday bounty of projects aimed at garnering support from constituencies ranging from sports fans to arts patrons.
Announced late Wednesday by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the deal would cover everything from a $914 million tunnel leading to the Port of Miami to finally transforming fallow Bicentennial Park into a waterfront jewel with new art and science museums.
By also shoring up the shaky finances at the fledgling Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, the plan’s framework would free up additional tax monies that could be used to build a $525 million retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida Marlins.
”This is a great opportunity for all of us — all of us — to create an incredible legacy for the urban core,” Diaz said following a long day of negotiating the multi-party pact — and then selling it to individual commissioners.
While Diaz and others in the city embraced the so-called ”global” agreement with the county, many questions remain.
One is whether a deal this complex can actually come to fruition. With so many parts forming the larger whole, it’s possible that criticism of one piece of the blueprint could derail others.
Secondly, the intricate financing has been crafted in a way to sidestep a potential voter referendum — which could embolden critics.
COMMISSIONS TO VOTE
Selling it is key, and the first test comes Thursday when Miami commissioners decide whether to move the multilayered plan forward.
County commissioners would then begin their review of key pieces of the ballpark financing and redevelopment plans Dec. 18.
The framework — hashed out over several weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with city and county managers — centers on expanding the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island.
CRAs are federally mandated special taxing districts that generate extra cash for areas targeted for revitalization. By aiming to expand the key Omni district, Miami leaders envision new infusions of money that would be doled out for multiple big-ticket projects.
The biggest beneficiaries of this new Omni CRA would be the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and a proposed new ballpark for the Marlins at the soon-to-be-demolished Orange Bowl.
Diaz said the county would essentially receive up to $400 million in CRA revenue over the next 30 years to cover debt service on the arts center.
This will free up somewhere between $160 million and $200 million in tourist taxes from the PAC — that the county and city could then use for the ballpark in Little Havana.
Less certain: whether the will, and the money, exist to build a 6,000-space parking garage and one of Diaz’s personal projects — a 25,000-seat soccer stadium also proposed for the 40-acre Orange Bowl site.
By expanding the CRA boundaries over the MacArthur Causeway to Watson Island, the city believes it can also use $50 million in CRA money to pay its share of the $914 million Port of Miami Tunnel over the next 35 years.
Florida transportation officials had vowed to move their $457 million share of the tunnel deal to other parts of the state if the city didn’t put up its $50 million piece by Monday.
”I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, no pun intended,” said City Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who represents the Orange Bowl area.
Miami property owners would also benefit from the expanded Omni CRA, city leaders say.
Diaz said the city would pay off its outstanding debt on the troubled Jungle Island construction loans from the expanded CRA instead of general revenues.
By expanding the boundaries into Bicentennial Park, the city would also use $68 million in new CRA revenue for the development of Museum Park — including a planned underground parking garage. The CRA money would not be used to build the museums.
Another question mark: whether city officials will be legally permitted to spin another $2 million a year out of the CRA to pay for ongoing capital improvements inside the park.
A second, more hard-pressed, special tax district would also benefit under the city-county pact.
The Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA, which generates considerably less revenue than the Omni, would be extended to year 2030 and its boundaries expanded to 20th Street on the north and Northwest Seventh Avenue on the west.
The city would spend up to $80 million for affordable housing, infrastructure, parks and job programs in the economically depressed Overtown neighborhood, and it would set aside $35 million for the city’s struggling streetcar plan.
Diaz said Miami planned to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach when spending the CRA money on these big-ticket items over the next 30 years, rather than floating bonds to bankroll the projects.
The unstated reason: The projects wouldn’t have to face voter approval.
In previous years, the city had contemplated issuing CRA bonds that could net perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars up front, to be used on large public-works projects.
But the Florida Supreme Court ruled in September that any bond issue local governments do with CRA money needs voter approval. Miami responded by abandoning its bond-issue plans.
This plan would sidestep those concerns.
As in every public project, the key is in the details, and literally hundreds of them still need to be hashed out.
First: Does Diaz have the three commission votes to pass the plan when the body meets this morning?
”God willing, [Thursday] we will approve possibly the most exciting — largest, certainly — package of projects in city history,” Diaz said late Wednesday.
Commissioner Sanchez said of the ”global” agreement: “So far, it looks good. . . . It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Herald staff writers Charles Rabin, Andres Viglucci and Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.
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