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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