Plans for Tri-Rail’s long-delayed arrival to serve downtown Miami have advanced with a three-way agreement for Tri-Rail’s team to start training and testing to get service rolling.
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), which controls Tri-Rail, has “received a signed Tri-Party Agreement, with Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway and Brightline, that gives permission for SFRTA personnel to begin training and testing for the implementation of Tri-Rail services at Miami Central Station,” Frank Garcia, SFRTA information officer, said in a Monday news release.
No date for start of downtown service was mentioned.
In March, Steven Abrams, then executive director of SFRTA, said “We are showing a revenue stream” indicating a Nov. 1 launch of Tri-Rail into the Miami Central Station despite a long series of well-publicized earlier glitches.
SFRTA’s board appointed David Dech executive director in August. No start-up date was cited in an Aug. 18 interview with Miami Today.
Monday’s release said “this latest milestone was made possible thanks to the building of a great partnership that has been key to move things forward.”
“One of my main goals when arriving in South Florida,” Mr. Dech said, “was to ensure we were having quality conversations with our partners at Brightline and the FEC, knowing it is the only way we are going to get through the hurdles that have been holding us up.”
Mr. Garcia said “the November start date was delayed as some final pieces are being finalized.” Mr. Dech could not be reached.
The Aug. 18 article said Mr. Dech was hired primarily “for his management experience opening rail stations, leading public-private partnerships and negotiating with host and tenant railroads. He brings experience running commuter rail for a public agency and holding senior positions for freight railroads in the private sector.”
Mr. Dech said then that he “expected the negotiations to be tough because you have to be a good negotiator in order to do the type of work they do… We’ve made a lot of progress and expect that we’ll be scheduling a grand opening date in the very near future.”
Florida East Coast Railway, operating in Florida, was purchased in 2017 by Grupo Mexico, a Mexican conglomerate that operates divisions in transportation, as well as mining and infrastructure. The conglomerate started in 1942. The railway owns the tracks upon which Tri-Rail would come into downtown. Brightline, a privately owned railway, operates on those same tracks and now runs essentially the same Miami-to-Palm Beach route that Tri-Rail does – with the exception of downtown Miami.
SFRTA “engineers and conductors will be trained… to operate Tri-Rail trains on the FEC corridor, for route familiarization, testing of power units and checking rides,” according to Mr. Garcia.
Public investment to bring Tri-Rail into the already-functioning downtown station is almost $43 million. Miami’s Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency put in $17.5 million; Miami-Dade County $13.9 million; the City of Miami $7.167 million; Omni Community Redevelopment Agency $3 million; and Miami’s Downtown Development Authority $1.267 million.
Tri-Rail, which receives state, county and federal funds, paid $21.8 million for the project, and Brightline paid the difference of about $25 million, a report from the Office of the Inspector General says.