Miami, Fla – Miami-Dade County’s decision, after 30 years of inaction, to expedite the development of the north corridor by extending Metrorail service from Dr. Martin Luther King Station in Liberty City to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens and ending at County Line Road has begun to materialize. President Joe Biden gets credit for $1.4 million.
The county contribution would need an estimated $1.9 billion to complete the massive project which is part of the county’s Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) plan, six-high-volume of commuting routes across MiamiDade’ Northeast and south corridors.
County commissioners, who adopted the plan in 2016, sought matching state and federal funds for the project. Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Oliver Gilbert III, who also chairs the county’s Transportation Planning Organization, sponsored legislation to speed up the Metrorail extension project at last month’s county commission meeting.
Thanks to Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure law, the county last week was awarded a $1.4 million federal grant for transit projects for the corridors. Though it’s a far cry from the $1.9 billion needed for the Metrorail expansion project, county ofﬁcials said it’s a promising sign that additional funding is coming its way.
Miami-Dade is hoping to break ground on the project sometime in 2024 or 2025.
Included in the SMART plan is a Gilbert-led ordinance for the county to build affordable housing along the routes of Metrorail stations to give residents an easier access to public transit service and encourage them to use it to help alleviate trafﬁc gridlock.
He said the county has been promising residents to extend Metrorail for the past 30 years and the SMART Plan was ready to deliver on the promise.
But funding issues, disagreements among commissioners and transportation planning board members on different development strategies and engineering designs delayed the project.
“The bold don’t live forever and the timid don’t live at all,” said Gilbert. "This is our bold attempt to deliver on a 30year promise to the community. Doing so will allow us to continue to build up the critical mass transit needed around transit facilities to support an efficient and sustainable transit system."
Gilbert said the accelerated project provides residents a seamless transit experience by extending Metrorail along N.W. 27th Avenue with stops at Miami-Dade College and Hard Rock Stadium.
The extension would alleviate traffic gridlock by giving citizens easier access to the stadium for Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricane home football games, concerts and other events, and the college.
But a proposed plan to expand Metromover from Downtown Miami to Miami Beach is also seeking state and federal assistance, perhaps cutting into the funding for the Metrorail extension project.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava suggested there will be enough funding for both massive projects.
“Thanks to this funding from the federal government, we are making strong investments to expand our transportation system and our housing inventory, two of the biggest priorities of my administration,” Levine Cava said in a statement. “World-class destinations boast world-class public transit, we are connecting residents and visitors alike to North MiamiDade and with this accelerated schedule, we’re developing this corridor faster than we ever thought possible."
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the bipartisan Infrastructure Law which provides $69 million in funding for a federal pilot program for transit planning through 2026 will give people easier access to their daily destinations.
He said the funding is a 38 percent increase over the past five years of transit funding by the federal government.
“Transit stations represent access to jobs, schools, affordable housing and so much more,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “With this funding, more communities will be able to develop the areas around their transit stations, which will mean stronger local economies, cleaner air, and better access to the essential services families rely on.”
Miami-Dade also will get $840,000 from Biden’s Infrastructure Law to speed up construction of the Northeast corridor which runs on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks from Miami to Aventura.
The funds will go toward drafting a master plan for transit-oriented developments, mixed-use, pedestrian, and bicycle-friendly construction projects intended to serve as employment, housing and commercial hubs, at or between the corridor’s five stations.
Previously, the county received $533,000 in federal grants earmarked for three rapid-bus stations along the South Corridor in Homestead.
It will run on the existing South Dade Transitway, a linear, 20-mile busway between the southernmost Metrorail station near Dadeland Mall in the county’s unincorporated Kendall neighborhood and Homestead Station in the city’s downtown area.