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Fort Lauderdale, Florida/Tri-County Commuter Rail

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Tri-County Commuter Rail

Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, Florida

(November 1998)


The Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority (Tri-Rail) operates a 71.7-mile regional transportation system connecting Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties in South Florida. This area has a population of over four million, nearly one-third of the total population of Florida. Tri-Rail is proposing improvements to enhance significantly the service reliability of commuter rail in the rail corridor owned by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Tri-Rail intends to construct a second mainline track, rehabilitate the signal system, and provide station and parking improvements. In addition, project costs include acquisition of new rolling stock, improvements to the Hialeah maintenance yard facility, and construction of a new, northern layover facility. The proposed double-tracking is intended to allow for 15 minute headways during peak commuter hours, as opposed to the one-hour headways that now exist.

To date, 9.6 miles of the Double Track Corridor Improvement Project have been completed, including a station at Miami International Airport, which will be the cornerstone of the future Miami Intermodal Center. An additional 7.0 miles are scheduled to be completed in early 2000. FDOT, in conjunction with Tri-Rail, is arranging to assume the dispatching and maintenance operations in the corridor from the CSX Railroad, which is currently performing these functions. .

Tri-County Commuter Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Commuter Rail Double Tracking and Station Modifications
71.7 miles, 19 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $422.00 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $130.80 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $46.80 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 68,348 average weekday boardings
30,063 daily new riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Highly Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Tri-Rail system was created in 1989 as a traffic mitigation project during the State widening of Interstate 95. Environmental requirements for the Tri-County Commuter Rail improvements were satisfied with categorical exclusions.

Tri-Railís double track corridor improvement project will be implemented in eleven phases. Phase I, an 8.14-mile portion between Pompano Beach and Broward Boulevard began in Spring 1995 and was completed in April 1997. Phase II, completed in Spring 1998, is a 1.5-mile southern extension which terminates at the New Miami International Airport Station, the cornerstone of the future Miami Intermodal Center. Construction of Phase III, 6.97 miles from south of the proposed Boca Raton/Glades Road Station to south of the Pompano Beach Station, began in March 1998 and is scheduled to be completed by January 2000. The full project will be completed in 2007.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(27) authorizes the Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach-Miami Tri-County Commuter Rail for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $55.3 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding for this project. To date, Tri-Rail has also utilized $11.5 million of apportioned Fixed Guideway Modernization monies for this project, $24.1 million of Section 5307 formula funds, and $38.2 million in State funds, for a total of $134.6 million.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTAís Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Improvements included in Tri-Railís capital improvement program along the entire 71.7-mile system were used to develop the criteria. Tri-Rail indicates that no TSM alternative was advanced in the project development process; therefore, criteria comparing the New Start to the TSM alternative are not available (N/A).


Mobility Improvements

Rating: High

Tri-Rail estimates the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 26.60 million hours N/A

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 10,892 low income households within a ½ mile radius of the 19 stations, approximately 16 percent of the total households within a ½ mile radius of the stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Low

Air Quality in the three metropolitan areas of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, has recently been reclassified to attainment/maintenance. Tri-Rail estimates that in the year 2015, the project would result in the following emission increases compared to the No-Build alternative.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) increase of 46 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) increase of 116 annual tons N/A
Hydrocarbons (HC) increase of 8 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) increase of 13 annual tons N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) increase of 8,031 annual tons N/A

Tri-Rail estimates that in 2015, the Commuter Rail improvements will result in the following increases in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal UnitsóBTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) increase of 103.50 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

Tri-Rail estimates a decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2015.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2015) $0.29 N/A $0.24

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: High

Tri-Rail estimates the following cost effectiveness index.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $5.06 N/A

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium land use rating reflects both the existence of moderate densities along the corridor and policies in the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Plans which promote transit-supportive land use, but which remain to be implemented fully. Potential high trip generators located along the Tri-Rail corridor include three international airports and three central business districts in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. (Connections to the Fort Lauderdale and Miami CBDs, however, require transfers to additional transit services.) Residential development throughout the corridor is at low to medium densities. Growth and development within the Tri-Rail service area of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties is strictly contained within a 12-mile band bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Palmetto Expressway on the west in Miami-Dade County and the Sawgrass Expressway on the west in both Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

All three counties recently amended their comprehensive plans to accommodate transit-supportive land development policies. A new Miami-Dade County conformity agreement offers guidelines calling for new development within ¼ mile of a transit station to be developed at a level of 75 employees and 15 dwelling units per acre. In conjunction with the State of Florida, local planning agencies and the Florida Department of Community Affairs have developed policies supporting both urban infill and the prevention of urban sprawl. Implementation of these policies depends on the actions of individual jurisdictions. Citizen participation is incorporated in the land development planning process as well as in the development of station site planning guidelines. Joint development negotiations have begun for five station sites. Two station sites have released Requests for Proposals for joint development.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 69%

Tri-Railís proposed financial plan assumes $130.8 million (31 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, $33.0 million (8 percent) in Section 5307 funds, $34.1 million (8 percent) in Section 5309 Bus funds, $26.2 million (6 percent) in Federal flexible funds, and $197.9 million (47 percent) in State funds, all expressed in year of expenditure dollars. Tri-Rail has already received $55.3 million of the $130.8 million Section 5309 New Starts funds projected in the Capital Plan.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High capital plan rating reflects that commitments are in place for most of the non-Section 5309 share of project costs. In the past year, capital cost projections have decreased from $573.1 million to $422.0 million, due to a reduction in the number of proposed vehicle purchases and the elimination of elements of a related but separate project. Of the $197.9 million in State funds in the proposed Financing Plan, $96.4 million is committed FDOT funds. For the remaining $101.5 million, FDOT has provided FTA with written documentation of its commitment to secure funds for the Tri-County Commuter Rail, contingent on FTA issuing a Full Funding Grant Agreement. In the past, FDOT has matched, and often overmatched, Federal funds received by Tri-Rail. FDOT provided over $140 million of State funds for the project through FY 1998. FDOT has incorporated the Tri-Rail FY 1999-2004 Capital Plan into its own FY 2000-2004 Work Program

Stability and Reliability of Operating Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium operating plan rating reflects the positive financial structure of Tri-Railís existing operations and the availability of existing resources to assist with potential operational funding deficits. In recent years, Tri-Rail has experienced positive operating balances and increasing ridership. The current farebox recovery ratio is 25 percent. Tri-Rail projects that significant ridership increases and operating efficiencies will result in an 85 percent farebox recovery ratio in 2015. (However, funding sources are available if the projected recovery ratio is not met.) FDOT is required under State statute to fund up to 50 percent of Tri-Railís net deficit with the stipulation that FDOTís total contributions cannot exceed the local contribution of the three counties served by Tri-Rail. Tri-Rail has agreements with Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, by which each county has committed to contribute an amount equal to one-third of FDOTís contribution. Federal law permits Florida to obligate up to $4.0 million of the Stateís FHWA funds for Tri-Rail operating expenses during each year that Interstate 95 is under reconstruction. Tri-Rail has received these funds since 1989 and expects to continue receiving them for the next five to seven years

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $130.80 $55.30 million appropriated through FY 1999
Section 5307 $33.00 N/A
Section 5309(m)(1)(A) $34.10 N/A
FHWA Flexible Funds $26.20 N/A
FDOT District IV $46.40 N/A
FDOT District Commitment $50.00 N/A
FDOT Candidate $101.50 N/A
Total: $422.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Tri-County Commuter Rail (PDF)]

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact