Tri-Rail Coastal Link South Florida East Coast Corridor (SFECC) Transit Analysis Study
Q: Who are the Study Partners?
The Tri-Rail Coastal Link Study is a multi-agency partnership sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties and the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils. The study is managed by FDOT following guidelines established by the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration and recommendations by the U.S. Maritime Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state environmental agencies. Input is being sought from Miami-Dade Transit, Broward County Transit, Palm Tran, and the three county Leagues of Cities. The project is being coordinated with local jurisdictions along the FEC corridor.
Q: What has been done over the last year?
The planning phase of the project has continued to prepare the necessary technical documentation to facilitate the 2-year Project Development phase which is scheduled to start in spring 2017. The System Master Plan, presented to the public for input in late 2010, represents a long-term vision for the proposed commuter service. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the project partners have worked closely with Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), and its partners to refine the System Master Plan, develop viable Build Alternatives and identify potential project phases. This work includes extensive coordination with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on the travel demand/ridership model and with FECI on shared use of the privately owned railroad corridor and the ongoing infrastructure improvement projects by FECI to enhance both freight and passenger rail services.
Q: When will the Project Development phase begin?
This is anticipated to begin in spring 2017. Ongoing technical work and coordination is being conducted by the project partners to prepare the technical documentation necessary to request Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approval to enter the Project Development phase.
Q: What will be studied during the Project Development phase?
The Tri-Rail Coastal Link (TRCL) project is a multi-agency partnership to establish commuter rail service, connecting 28 coastal communities along FEC’s railroad corridor between Miami and Jupiter. The Project Development phase will evaluate a cost-feasible Build Alternative that may result in enhanced transit service in the tri-county region. TRCL proposes passenger stations spaced 2 to 5 miles apart, consistent with average commuter rail station spacing.
The Project Development phase will involve an environmental study and technical evaluation of the Build Alternative(s) in compliance with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requirements and all federal, state and local regulations. As part of this analysis, the Build Alternative will be refined to minimize costs and any environmental effects. During Project Development, detailed project costs and a financial plan will be developed. The station locations will be finalized and conceptual station and engineering plans will be developed for public input.
At the conclusion of the Project Development phase, a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) will be identified, presented for public input and endorsement by the three MPOs. Ultimately, the LPA selected through this study will provide reliable, regional high-capacity transit infrastructure through the highest density areas of the southeast Florida region and support intermodal connectivity with existing and planned transit services to serve other areas of the region including, but not limited to, the western communities in the tri-county area.
Q: When will the project be constructed?
Construction is not funded at this time. The Project Development study is completely funded. After the Project Development phase, the next phases of study would involve design, potential right-of-way acquisition, and construction phases. The timing of these subsequent phases is dependent on the identification of project funding.
Q: How does Tri-Rail Coastal Link (f/k/a/ SFECC) compare to All Aboard Florida and potential Amtrak service along the FEC Corridor?
All Aboard Florida is a private initiative to provide intercity passenger service between Miami and Orlando with intermediate station stops in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It is being developed by a private entity in conjunction with the owner of the railroad corridor. There is ongoing coordination to co-locate the planned Tri-Rail Coastal Link stations at the proposed All Aboard Florida stations in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach based on the assumption that the All Aboard Florida is in service before Tri-Rail Coastal Link.
The potential for Amtrak service from Jacksonville to downtown Miami along the FEC corridor has been evaluated by FDOT in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the municipalities along the east coast. A Draft Environmental Assessment for this Amtrak Passenger Rail Study was prepared and submitted for federal approval.
The Tri-Rail Coastal Link project is being developed to work with both the All Aboard Florida service and the potential FEC Amtrak service in the railroad corridor.
Q: When will the station(s) serving my district/city be built?
As the study continues, the 25 potential station locations will be further refined based on ridership projections, station spacing, travel time, cost-effectiveness, land use, local comprehensive plans, connectivity to highway and transit, benefits to people who are transit dependent and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) potential. This station refinement process will be accomplished incorporating outreach with stakeholders. Construction is not funded at this time and will be dependent on the identification of future project funding.
Q: How does FDOT plan to continue interacting with the public?
During the conclusion of the current planning phase, interaction with the public will continue via the project website and electronic means. Outreach with elected officials is ongoing and periodic updates are presented at meetings of the MPOs, SFRTA, Southeast Florida Transportation Council (SEFTC) and other public agencies. In 2017, public meetings will be held once the Project Development phase starts.
Q: What are some of the challenges of the project?
On a complex project such as this, the challenges are many. The critical ones include accessing the private FEC corridor, funding, developing the implementation plan, and addressing and mitigating community concerns over noise, traffic and other potential impacts. Agreements to access the FEC's corridor and resolving operational issues associated with a shared-use corridor for freight and passenger service are challenges being addressed through ongoing coordination with FECI.
Q: What type of transit service will be available?
Initial passenger rail service is anticipated to connect the coastal downtowns and municipal areas. As ridership grows, more frequent service could be added on. Integration of planned passenger rail service with existing Tri-Rail, Metrorail, Metromover, express and local bus service throughout the region is being evaluated as part of the study.
Q: Won't passenger service on the FEC service just duplicate Tri-Rail service?
Transit along the FEC alignment will link to and enhance Tri-Rail service with stops closer to where people live and work. People who presently ride Tri-Rail are generally long-distance commuters who arrive at stations by car, bus or shuttle. Transit along the FEC route has the potential of servicing shorter trips as well, within walking distance of future transit stations, municipal downtowns along the corridor and major activity centers such as hospitals and universities.
Q: Where would the Tri-Rail/FEC connections be?
In previous phases of the study, various connections were analyzed to determine the most feasible Tri-Rail/FEC connection. Based on those analyses, the study team is analyzing existing Tri-Rail/FEC connections in Miami-Dade County, Pompano Beach, and West Palm Beach. In September 2013, the USDOT awarded a TIGER grant to support funding for construction of the Northwood Connection in West Palm Beach (Northwood area) and connectivity from the FEC to the Tri-Rail Hialeah yard in Miami-Dade County. More detail on these projects is provided by clicking here.
Q: Will freight trains be removed from the FEC alignments?
The potential of rerouting FEC freight trains was analyzed early in the study and some opportunities were identified that may be subsequently pursued by FECI, FDOT and other study partners. The Tri-Rail/FEC connections are being analyzed to support freight relocation if implemented by the railroads. However, regardless of the outcome of those discussions, the need to continue servicing seaports and local shippers along the FEC corridor means that some level of freight train service is likely to remain on that route.
Q: Will a transit service on the FEC run on time?
Every effort will be made, starting with the earliest stages of planning and design, to ensure that passenger and freight services will safely and reliably co-exist in the corridor from the opening day of service.
Q: How long will it take to get from Jupiter to Miami or Fort Lauderdale to Miami?
Travel time will depend on the number of stops and the type of train. Travel time is expected to be comparable to an average vehicle commute with greater reliability, consistency and convenience and at lower cost to the commuter.
Q: What is FEC's role?
FEC is an integral study partner to develop an effective passenger service while accommodating continued freight operations and planned intercity passenger service (All Aboard Florida). They own the rail corridor and operate the freight trains that serve the seaports. They are providing in-kind engineering services and working closely with FDOT to accommodate passenger service in the corridor.
Q: Will the project be phased and if so, how will the first phase(s) be determined?
TRCL passenger service may be phased in along the corridor. The priority for implementation of the phases depends on anticipated ridership, cost, cost-effectiveness and local commitment of funds, among other criteria. The MPOs determine project priorities within the three counties.
Q: How much will the project cost?
Cost estimates for the service plans and project phases are being prepared.
Q: Has a funding source been identified to pay for the capital costs, operations and maintenance (O&M)?
In conjunction with local partners, FDOT and SFRTA will continue to evaluate various funding strategies to identify the best combination of approaches and sources for funding the project. Capital funding may be a combination of federal, state and local monies. The funding mechanisms for operation and maintenance costs are anticipated to be generated locally. Because of the unique location of the corridor in dense urban areas, it is anticipated that planned and future development at stations will generate revenue opportunities to help offset O&M costs.
Q: When can service begin?
Some transit along certain segments of the corridor could be in service as early as 2020 depending on several factors -- if consensus is reached; if there is a local, dedicated source of funding; if the project meets technical criteria; if the project receives the appropriate federal or state and local funding approvals; and obtaining access to the privately-owned FEC corridor. Currently, there are no committed funding sources for engineering, construction, operations, or maintenance. The study is progressing, maintaining funding eligibility through a federal process which could result in revenue service in 7 years, in a best case scenario. Non-federal funding sources and a non-federal process could result in service in about 3-5 years.
Q: Will people's homes be acquired to make room for stations?
Based on the choice of alignment, few, if any, homes will need to be acquired except perhaps for station development. In order to gain maximum ridership, station areas are generally located near commercial centers. However, every effort will be made to minimize impacts should a station need to be located in or near a residential area. Property owners will be compensated for property acquisitions per applicable laws.
Q: Will FDOT build a noise wall along the FEC Corridor if a passenger train operates there?
If passenger trains are put into service on or alongside the FEC tracks, FDOT will conduct detailed noise studies to determine if noise abatement is warranted next to residential or other noise-sensitive areas, such as schools, churches or hospitals. Generally, passenger rail is quieter than freight rail and trains are much shorter in length, causing less noise for a shorter period of time. If noise abatement is warranted, different noise abatement techniques such as landscaping and noise shrouds will be considered in addition to noise walls. The noise analysis will be conducted during the Project Development phase.
Q: Will passenger trains be required to sound their horns at grade crossings?
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations currently require trains to sound their horns at all at-grade highway crossings for safety reasons. However, federal "Quiet Zone" regulations permit the elimination of train horns if certain safety improvements are made at a crossing. The applicability and funding of Quiet Zones will be considered as the study continues and in ongoing parallel efforts by FDOT, the MPOs and local governments.
Q: What will the impact be on street traffic when railway crossings are closed more often to accommodate passing transit service?
More frequent train service will mean more gate closings, although passenger trains are shorter and faster than freight trains so their impact on traffic is generally less severe. The Study will consider closing some crossings wherever practical. Ways to minimize delays to auto traffic are being evaluated. FDOT will work closely with each municipality along the FEC alignment as grade crossings are evaluated.
Q: How will the trains cross waterways like the New River?
A number of environmental, engineering, aesthetics, navigational and cost-benefit issues need to be fully understood before a decision on how to cross each waterway can be made. Where new crossings are needed, the specific type of water crossings will be determined as the engineering evaluation advances during the Project Development phase.
Q: How is the study being conducted?
The Study is being conducted in accordance with Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and FDOT's Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM) process and guidelines.
Q: It seems important decisions will be made as the Study progresses. Will the public be kept informed and have opportunities to comment on them?
Public involvement is a very important part of the Study process. In the last few years, there were 14 Kickoff Meetings, 12 Workshops and five Public Hearings attended by more than 1,700 members of the public. The project database of property owners and business operators was compiled from tax rolls for sites within a two-mile-wide study corridor and along its 85-mile length. The result was a mailing list of nearly 230,000 individuals and companies. A new, expanded database was later compiled from the same sources by enlarging the area beyond two miles. Moving forward, meetings will be announced in newspaper ads and meetings notices will be sent via U.S. Postal Service and transmitted via e-flyer to those in the project database. To be added to the project database, add your e-mail address by clicking here.
Q: How can I get more information about the study and receive notices of meetings?
Please fill out the information on the Contact Us page and you will be added to email distribution on all project notifications, meeting notices and periodic updates as the Study continues.