Captain's Chair - FDOT Study Submitted to Legislature
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) finalized the updated study of the impact of passenger rail on the FEC Railroad Bridge over the New River and submitted its findings to the Legislature earlier this month. Conducted in 2005, the original study looked at the potential effects of Amtrak on the FEC Railroad and the costs associated with possible solutions that included an additional bascule railroad bridge built at a significantly higher level that would specifically accommodate passenger and/or commuter rail and decrease the obstruction of navigability for vessels on the river.
Fifteen years later, nothing about the FEC Railroad bridge has changed. It’s still about four feet above the water, right where Henry Flagler built it in 1912. In South Florida, transportation planners have constructed and expanded I-95 multiple times; developed and enlarged I-595; created the Florida Turnpike and the Sawgrass Expressway; and built more and more roadways to accommodate more and more cars. Broward County is now the epicenter of the sixth largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S. and is still growing, as nearly 1,000 people move into the state of Florida every day. Yes, every day.
Currently, with 34 Virgin/Brightline passenger trains a day and plans to add additional stations in the region, along with protracted discussions to establish Tri-Rail Coastal Link, a passenger rail solution for the FEC Railroad bridge is even more critically needed, but now, according to the latest study, it will cost many millions more to build.
As one of the foremost industries in South Florida, with hefty emphasis in Broward County, it is incumbent upon us to educate, advocate, and demonstrate to local, state, and federal officials the urgent need for decisive actions now, using today’s dollars to establish regionalism with necessary infrastructure improvements that safeguard the future of our industry and provide transportation alternatives to our residents and visitors.
The next step needed to create a feasible plan for the construction of an appropriately-sited passenger railroad bridge over the New River and across Broward Boulevard to the Virgin/Brightline Station is a Project Development and Environmental Study, commonly referred to as a PD&E, conducted by FDOT along with the firm support and commitment of Broward County Administration.
In addition to our state lobbying efforts during the 2020 Legislative Session, MIASF will locally focus on achieving this next step of the planning process by working with FDOT, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), the Broward County Administrator and Commissioners, and other organizations to realize this long-awaited, yet still visionary, solution to increasing transportation demands and eliminating threats to our working waterfront and the continued navigability of our waterways.