Gazitua Letelier Update – Regional Transportation Opportunities in Greater Miami.

Below you will find an outline of future opportunities regarding upcoming transportation projects in Greater Miami.

Substantial Renovations at Miami International Airport

To extend the life-cycle of its facilities for another fifteen (15) years, Miami International Airport is planning a Terminal Optimization Plan, which consists of multiple projects totaling in excess of $1 billion. Under the proposed plan, which is long-term in scope and does not yet have a timeline, many current facilities will be torn down and replaced, while relocating other obsolete facilities as well. Although current deliberations have limited the plan to renovations, the County has not ruled out terminal expansions within the current plan. The long-term plan reflects Miami-Dade County’s commitment to excellence and attracting an increasing number of tourists.[1]

SMART Plan Proposal Aims for $1.2 Billion in Federal Funding

           The SMART Plan is Miami-Dade County’s ambitious effort to revolutionize transportation throughout six (6) rapid-transit corridors in the County. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart has repeatedly urged the County to prioritize at least one of the six corridors and its respective projects over the other five corridors.

In response, Esteban Bovo, Jr., Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners and the Transportation Planning Organization, which supervises the execution of the SMART Plan, has proposed strategic pivot to alleviate those concerns. Specifically, Chairman Bovo is advocating for selecting a single project as priority, which he believes will favorably position Miami-Dade County to be awarded $1.2 billion in federal funding for the SMART Plan. Chairman Bovo proposes to combine two of those corridors, the North and South Corridors, which are linked by the Miami-Dade Metrorail, and endorse these corridors the top priority of Miami-Dade County.[2]

Main Roadways Could Have Reversible Lanes as Early as 2019

Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (“DTPW”), which is tasked with supervision of all roadway projects, recommended to move forward on a more detailed study of how reversible lanes could alleviate traffic congestion during peak traffic hours. Reversible lanes increase directional capacity during peak travel times by shifting the direction of traffic from where it is currently stalled. DTPW’s recommendation followed an initial study completed by the Transportation Planning Organization (“TPO”), whose members work directly with the federal government in connection with federally required transportation plans and policies. TPO’s initial study focused on the top two (2) corridors in the County, but their analysis revealed that there are at least fifteen (15) corridors throughout the County that would benefit from reversible lanes. Alice Bravo, the Director of DTPW, stated the detailed study, which has been assigned to the Traffic and Engineering Division of DTPW, should take another six (6) months to complete. If the study supports recommendation of reversible lanes, Miami-Dade County will begin deliberation on allocating funds for full design and construction periods, which would take only two (2) years.[3]

Miami-Dade County Reconsiders Buying Rail Lines for Transit

Board of County Commissioners Chairman Esteban Bovo, Jr. has recommended to Miami-Dade County’s business leaders that they take a second look at having the County purchase thirty-five (35) miles of rail line from CSX Corp. for new commuter service. The railroad has two lines that coincide with County transportation goals: first, an eleven (11) mile segment from Miami International Airport to the West end of the County, and second, a twenty-four (24) mile segment from Miami International Airport to Homestead, the South end of the County. Chairman Bovo believes that CSX’s new CEO, F. Hunter Harrison, will help facilitate a deal between business leaders and the rail line that results in new transportation opportunities in the County.

According to Chairman Bovo, CSX approached Miami-Dade County with interest in selling the rail lines and then running limited freight service on those lines during pre-dawn hours, which otherwise leaves the rails clear to establish new commuter service throughout Miami-Dade County. Price estimates for the sale of the rail lines may go as high as $1.5 million per mile, which is more than feasible for the County. Just one year ago, the cost to build the eleven (11) mile segment rail line was estimated at $100 million and an annual $8 million cost to operate and maintain. Chairman Bovo described these costs as “a drop in the bucket.” Chairman Bovo plans, and is eager to meet with business leaders in September to further this effort.[4]

County Evaluating Use of Dedicated Lanes

Alice Bravo, the Director of DTPW, believes that creating roadways that exclusively accommodate the Miami-Dade transit system is the most comprehensive solution to avoid unnecessary traffic delays. Ms. Bravo stated that the County has begun to use new smart adaptive signal technology to make public transit more attractive. For example, green lights will stay on longer to ensure buses are given priority. As a display of its commitment, the County is investing $40 million this year to roll out new technologies in the SMART Plan as a part of a five-year, $160 million effort to improve traffic signalization and reduce congestion.[5]

Miami-Dade County Exploring On-Demand Trolley Service

In an effort to satisfy the demands of commuters, Miami-Dade County DTPW is exploring the implementation of an on-demand dynamic-route transit system for a pilot project either late this year, or early next year. The project’s goal is to deliver point-to-point service using small buses or trolleys operating within a two (2) to three (3) square-mile radius carrying no more than twelve riders at a time.

[1] MIA Makeover, Miami Today, August 10, 2017, at 1; FYI Miami: August 10, 2017, Miami Today, (Aug. 8, 2017) http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2017/08/08/fyi-miami-august-10-2017/

[2] North-south may lead all transit aims, Miami Today, August 10, 2017, at 1

[3] Reversible lanes may be tried on key county arteries by 2019, Miami Today, (Aug. 8, 2017), http://www.miamitodaynews.com/breaking/reversible-lanes-may-tried-key-county-arteries-2019/

[4] County looks at buying rail lines from CSX Corp. for transit, Miami Today, (Aug. 8, 2017), http://www.miamitodaynews.com/2017/08/08/county-looks-buying-rail-lines-csx-corp-transit/

[5] Miami-Dade looks to dedicated lanes to get buses to run on schedule, Miami Today, (Aug. 8, 2017), http://www.miamitodaynews.com/breaking/miami-dade-looks-dedicated-lanes-get-buses-run-schedule/

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Luis is an experienced procurement lawyer and Miami lobbyist serving elected officials, businesses, international clients, and trade associations. He regularly appears before local and state government in order to advance complex objectives for clients against competing interests. He has weathered various competitive processes in Florida including Home Rule Charter Amendments, Recalls, Local, State and Federal campaigns.