Ever since I personally can remember, Miami-Dade County has been unable to put forward a doable public transportation plan to alleviate congestion that has frustrated everyone. We have seen enough analysis paralysis and the public is ready for us to act. Last week, I met with U.S. Secretary for Transportation Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C. to engage with our federal partners in Miami Beach’s efforts to achieve a state of the art light rail system that connects our city to the greater Miami-Dade County area.
To keep our commitment to our residents of getting things done in Miami Beach, the City Commission and I authorized the City Manager to begin negotiating an Interim Agreement with a firm for the construction and operation of a modern streetcar system in our City. This streetcar will serve as the springboard to the long-discussed “Baylink Project” that promises to ease traffic congestion and improve connectivity in our community.
The City Commission’s decision last month was the culmination of a thoughtful and deliberative procurement process based on technology that attracted proposals from three incredibly qualified international consortiums. In making our decision, we specifically considered the following:
THE PROJECT: The Miami Beach Streetcar Project is not simply a loop around South Beach; this is the first phase of a larger project that will extend across the MacArthur Causeway (I-395) and connect the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center with Government Center and some of the City of Miami’s hottest neighborhoods, including Wynwood, Midtown, and the Design District.
FUNDING: The City of Miami Beach is pursuing state and county funding sources as well as city funds for the Miami Beach Streetcar Project. Just last week, Jim Boxold, Florida’s Secretary of Transportation met with me, our City Manager and transportation staff to gain a deeper understanding of our plan and the path forward. Even though the City is not pursuing federal funding for the first phase of the project due to the lengthy and unpredictable application process, the City has confirmed that this will not impede – and will, in fact, enhance – the prospects for federal funding for the remaining phases of the project. So essentially, by Miami Beach kick-starting the project, there is a better chance of the entire project coming to fruition.
PRICING: The City fully expects to negotiate fair pricing for the City and properly weigh project design with cost. The City will do a comprehensive financial analysis to ensure we reach the best deal for comparable wireless streetcar systems worldwide. If the final price point doesn’t meet the City’s set forth criteria, we will begin negotiations with the next ranked proposer.
COLLABORATION: The completion of the full project – including the causeway connection – will require careful coordination between the City of Miami Beach, the City of Miami, and Miami-Dade County. That coordination has already begun with representatives from all three jurisdictions negotiating and approving a Memorandum of Understanding that sets forth the first collective steps toward the implementation of the entire project. Last week, the Metropolitan Planning Authority (MPO) passed unanimously a resolution to move forward with the Beach Corridor Project by designating it a “Priority 1” and encouraged its advancement.
INTEROPERABILITY: It is critical that riders of our streetcar system will have the ability to enjoy a smooth journey across the causeway into the City of Miami, and vice versa. This means no unnecessary stops, transfers, or delays. Therefore, we have insisted in our bidding documents and will confirm in the Interim Agreement that streetcars provided by other companies can operate on the tracks (and utilize the technology) installed by our vendor.
SUSTAINABILITY: Our selected technology is in line with our City’s sustainability and resiliency efforts. It is fully wireless, quiet, and extremely energy efficient. It is fully wireless, quiet, and extremely energy efficient. While we are moving ahead with swiftness and determination, this project will only be built once all pre-requisites are met. Further, this project will have ongoing public engagement to ensure that our residents have an important voice throughout the process.
I am honored to be part of a proactive government that works hard to address the critical needs of our community. Over the last two years, the City Commission and I have worked together to advance difficult, transformational, long-stalled projects. We did it with the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center. We did it with our pioneering program to combat sea level rise. And now we are moving aggressively to address our traffic problems. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the City Commission and with our partners at every level of government, including the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County to get this job done.