On March 17th, Miami-Dade County announced the official opening of the first U.S. Hitachi Rail Center in the United Sates. ForwardFlorida.com reports on the new trains:
Hitachi Rail USA, the American subsidiary of Hitachi Rail Italy, announced the completion of a manufacturing facility for the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works’ new Metrorail vehicles. Consisting of more than 140,000 square feet, the plant, located in Medley, will manufacture 136 cars and 272 motor bogies (the structural subassembly accommodating wheels, axles, motor and gear box) needed to replace the existing Metrorail fleet. The pre-assembled parts will originate from an Italian plant acquired by Hitachi Rail last year. Contracted by the city Transportation and Public Works departments, the first new Metrorail vehicles are scheduled to be placed into service late next year, with production work lasting until at least early 2019.
And then in other news, Miami-Dade County is again talking about expanding the MetroRail system with six new rail lines. Last Thursday, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, a public transportation board consisting of county and city elected leaders, voted unanimously to pursue plans and funding – including federal grants – for the SMART (Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit) plan.
The Miami Herald published an excellent in-depth look at the plan and problems in their April 21 issue:
If those routes all sound a bit familiar, it’s because county voters already endorsed them back in 2002 — when they approved a half-percent sales tax increase that was supposed to add up to 88.9 additional miles to Miami-Dade’s Metrorail system.
All six of the currently envisioned SMART lines were included in the rail expansion promised to voters back then. But instead of a huge Metrorail expansion, the community only got a 2.4 mile- extension connecting the rail system to Miami International Airport.
With this new transit plan, [Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos] Gimenez said, a real expansion will happen. Miami-Dade has a new sense of unity surrounding the need for these six lines, he said, and is committed to using any and all funding sources or strategies to pay for them. Certainly, the county will be pursuing federal grant funding, and state funding, but Miami-Dade will also consider public-private partnerships, and may pay for some of the cost with its own transit tax revenues.
“The people of Miami-Dade are asking for relief, need relief, deserve relief,” Gimenez said.
Nearly all of the details of the plan still need to be worked out – including how to pay for it, which line will be built first and exactly what type(s) of transportation will be used. The county seems to be strongly leaning towards a light rail system, possibly including street cars; but dedicated lanes for buses haven’t been taken off the table yet. (Acckkk!)
From the Miami New Times, the six proposed lines include:
The “Beach Corridor” (formerly known as Baylink):
The rail would connect Miami Beach to the mainland via a light-rail system along the MacArthur Causeway, but on the ground, the line would extend up through South Beach on the beach side and up into the Design District and midtown on the mainland side.
South Dade Transit Way:
This plan would convert the existing enhanced bus service lanes along southern U.S. 1 into a light-rail transit system.
The East-West Corridor Along the Dolphin Expressway:
The rail system would connect downtown Miami to the western suburbs and would run roughly parallel to the perpetually clogged Dolphin Expressway. Previous discussions had involved constructing the system on existing but currently privately owned tracks.
The North Corridor:
This system would start at NW 79th Street and run along 27th Avenue.
The Kendall Corridor:
The line would begin at Dadeland Station and run west along Kendall Drive.