ray_lahood.jpgTransportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently joined federal, state and local leaders in Miami to break ground on the Port of Miami Intermodal and Rail Reconnection Project.

The $49 million project received $22 million in 2010 from the department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER ) grant program.

The federal dollars will help pay for restoration of rail service between the port and the Florida East Coast Rail Yard in Hialeah which was suspended in 2005 following damage to the rail bridge during Hurricane Wilma. From there, it will provide direct cargo access to the national rail system.

Currently, the port is completely dependent on trucks to transport containers to three primary distribution centers. 

The rail reconnection project is part of a larger investment program taking place at the port that includes the Miami Access Tunnel and the 50-foot dredge project that allows the port to benefit from the Panama Canal expansion in late 2014.

“The improvements we're making to the Port of Miami will benefit people and businesses across the Miami-Dade region and nationwide,” LaHood said in a statement from his department.  “The Port of Miami is a vital part of our nation’s economic growth and will be even more competitive in the global economy once it is fully restored.”

The project will also help reduce greenhouse emissions by eliminating about 60,000 truck trips every year between the port and the Hialeah rail yard. 

Some 400,000 truck trips in total are expected to be eliminated annually from the road within eight years of completing the project, the statement said.