Amtrak trains might soon come into the Miami Intermodal Center, just east of the airport, as the Florida Department of Transportation District Six has resumed talks with the company.
Both parties are currently negotiating the lease and an acceptable termination clause, Nilia Cartaya, model development office administrator for the department, told the Sept. 22 Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust Board meeting.
Separately, Amtrak would have to negotiate an agreement with Miami International Airport and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) on their contribution to the maintenance of common areas, platforms, track and overhead canopy.
Victor Garcia, authority director of public affairs, confirmed to Miami Today that “they requested a copy of our agreement with FDOT on the common area maintenance, as they will have to work this out with them and the site project managers.”
The publicly funded MIC opened in 2015. Amtrak trains initially couldn’t enter the station as they were too long and disrupted traffic at the east side of the station at Northwest 25th Street.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spent $5.6 million reconstructing, widening, milling and resurfacing Northwest 28th Street from just east of Northwest 42nd Avenue to Northwest 37th Avenue, and also creating a new bypass road from Northwest 25th Street to Northwest 37th Avenue and constructing a new signalized intersection at Northwest 28th Street and Northwest 37th Avenue.
Still, Amtrak has not occupied the station as the company and the state did not reach an agreement over lease terms. Now, as officials are back at the negotiating table with the company, officials said they hope to bring the trains to the station soon.
“From our perspective, they’re very much interested in coming to the MIC,” said Deputy Right of Way Manager-Operations, Maria Llanes. “I’m sure that eventually we will reach the terms and conditions.”
In February, Amtrak completed tests at the MIC in which its longest train entered the station without disrupting traffic. “We saw the rail equipment operate perfectly; the gates went down as expected, so everything went very smooth for this testing,” Ms. Cartaya told the CITT meeting. Mr. Garcia also confirmed to the newspaper that SFRTA worked with Amtrak on this testing.
In addition, in July Amtrak Real Estate and IT teams visited the MIC to further assess the facility and the leadership and IT teams continued visiting the site through August, a presentation of the department details.
“They seem very eager. They’re constantly in communication with the department, so I think that that’s a positive sign,” Ms. Cartaya said when asked about the tone of the conversations with Amtrak.
Ms. Llanis said the intention of Amtrak was to discontinue its Hialeah service once it is able to bring its trains into the MIC station. Miami Today could not independently confirm this by deadline.
In March, Javier Betancourt, executive director of the trust, wrote Amtrak urging it to extend its Silver Meteor/Silver Star Intercity Passenger Rail Service to the intermodal center.
“If there is anything the CITT can do to assist in the realization of this long delayed Intercity Passenger Rail Service to the MIC terminal, we would be happy to consider it,” Mr. Betancourt wrote. “This would be a win-win-win for Amtrak, the citizens of Miami-Dade County, and our traveling visitors. We respectfully and eagerly request that you please make this happen.”
In response, Stephen Gardner, Amtrak president and chief executive officer, wrote back in April that the company was “highly interested in moving our Miami operations to the facility.”
Mr. Gardner wrote that the company was evaluating technical and operational aspects of moving its service to the MIC, and that the real estate group was working to reaching “mutually acceptable commercial terms for a long-term facility lease at the MIC.”
“Miami is a key market for Amtrak and is served by the Silver Star and Silver Meteor, which connects New York City and Miami,” said Kimberly Woods, Amtrak spokesperson. “We are excited about the prospects of serving the Miami Intermodal Center in the future. Discussions continue with the Florida Department of Transportation and other agencies to allow Amtrak to become part of the MIC.”