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Miami - April 2004

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Rail Transit Online, April 2004

Bay Link OK'd

Completion of the proposed BayLink streetcar project linking Miami and Miami Beach across the MacArthur Causeway has been postponed to around 2022 by Miami-Dade County officials, who want to first finish three expensive MetroRail extensions.  The Miami Beach City Commission narrowly approved the $400-million, five-mile (8 km) line last Sept. 8 after a contentious political battle and a marathon public hearing (see RTOL, Oct. 2003).  Planning had been underway for many years and the concept has already been approved by other jurisdictions.  A consultant study found that streetcars would be both effective and would fit in well with the city’s ambiance.  The route was proposed by the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) as part of a program to reduce traffic.  But now the MPO, under a newly adopted set of priorities, is giving precedence to building heavy rail lines serving Miami International Airport, Florida International University and the 27th Avenue corridor to the Broward County line, all of which would be running by 2012.  Advanced planning and design of BayLink would presumably then start.   However, county officials said they will continue to seek money for preliminary engineering of BayLink.  “We are trying to advance all of (the corridors) through the process to make sure they have federal funding at some point,” county surface transportation manager Carlos Bonzon told Miami Today

Streetcar Proposal

A feasibility study is underway into a proposed streetcar line that would link downtown with the city’s northern neighborhoods.  According to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, a demonstration project could be built first to prove the concept, followed by extensions as funding becomes available.  This would be a separate project from Miami-Dade County’s ambitious rapid transit program to expand Metrorail into three new corridors and from the BayLink proposal.  “I'm told that it is doable,” Diaz told The Miami Herald.  “It has to get done.  It's something we need very much.  The connectivity of neighborhoods is important.  If we have to kick start it, we will.”  The study will include ridership estimates and route alternatives, possibly including Biscayne Boulevard, Miami Avenue and Northeast Second Avenue.  “We just want to make sure there is a ridership for it,” city assistant transportation coordinator Lilia Medina told the Herald.  The initial segment would be funded entirely by the city with its share of the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax, estimated at almost $10 million annually.  That would eliminate all the red tape and delays associated with applying for federal grants and, according to Diaz, could allow streetcars to be carrying passengers with three years.  The length of the first section would depend on how much money is available.  The preliminary plan calls for eventually reaching the city line at 87th Street — a distance of around about five miles (8 km).  A second line has been penciled in heading west along Calle Ocho through Little Havana to Coral Gables.


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