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Fort Lauderdale, Florida/Tri-County Commuter Rail

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Tri-Rail Commuter Rail Upgrades

Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, Florida

(November 1999)

(Tri-County Commuter Rail Map)


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 maintenance and layover facility. The proposed project will allow Tri-Rail to operate 20-minute headways during peak commuter hours, as opposed to the one-hour headways that now exist.

The Double Track Corridor Improvement Program Segment 5 project is approximately 44.3 miles long and includes upgrading the existing grade crossing system along the entire 71.7 mile commuter rail line. Previous improvements made to four other segments of the line are not included in this project.

To date, 9.6 miles of the Double Track Corridor Improvement Project have been completed, including a station at Miami International Airport, which is planned to be a part of the proposed Miami Intermodal Center. An additional 7.0 miles is are scheduled forto be completioned in early 2000. FDOT, in conjunction with Tri-Rail, is arranging to assume the dispatching and maintenance operations in the corridor from CSX Transportation (CSXT) by 2005.

Total project cost for the proposed project is $327.0 million (escalated), with a proposed Section 5309 New Starts share of $110.5 million (escalated). Tri-Rail estimates that the average weekday boardings would be 42,100 with an estimated 10,200 daily new riders in 2015.

Tri-County Commuter Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Commuter Rail Double Tracking and Station Modifications
71.7 miles, 19 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $327.00 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $1130.58 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1997) $46.80 million
Ridership Forecast (2015) 42,100 average weekday boardings
10,200 daily new riders
FY 2001 Financial Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall rating of Recommended is based on the project’s strong mobility improvements and the adequate transit supportive land use along the corridor, as well as the adequacy of the project's ’financial plan. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. 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.

The proposed Tri-Rail double track corridor improvement project will be implemented in five segments/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, adjacent to the site of the proposed 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 tforo be completioned by January 2000.

Segment 5 covers all remaining double-tracking and other improvements to the corridor, specifically the installation of 44.31 miles of a second mainline track system within the existing right-of-way. The project includes modifications and renovations to nine existing stations, the construction of two new stations, the closing of two existing stations, and the upgrading of grade crossings. Segment 5 is scheduled for completion in 2005. Tri-Rail is currently negotiating a full-funding grant agreement with FTA to implement Segment 5 of the Double Track Corridor Improvement Program.

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 2000, Congress has appropriated $65.07 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 FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Improvements included in Tri-Rail’s 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).

FTA has evaluated this project as being in final design.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the project’s strong mobility improvements and positive transit supportive land use policies, although the project’s cost effectiveness is below average.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

The 71.7-mile system is to serve 42,100 average weekday boardings and 10,200 daily new riders by 2015. Tri-Rail estimates the following annual travel time savings for the project.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 11.20 million hours N/A

Based on 1990XX census data, there are an estimated 10,892XX low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the 19 stations, approximately 16XX 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 changes in emissions compared to the No-Build alternative.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 89 annual tons N/A
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) increase of 88 annual tons N/A
Hydrocarbons (HC) decrease of 6 annual tons N/A
Particulate Matter (PM10) decrease of 21 annual tons N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) increase of 734 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 Units—BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) increase of 15,001 million annual BTU N/A

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Low

Tri-Rail estimates an increase 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) $0.28 N/A $0.35

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1999 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 $13.80 N/A

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the existence of moderate densities along the corridor and several policies contained in the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Plans which promote transit-supportive land use.

Existing Conditions: The proposed corridor area has a population of over four million, nearly one-third of the total population of Florida. The corridor runs through the central business districts of Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. These CBDs contain moderate densities and several high trip generators including Atlantic University, Palm Center Mall, and Mizner Park, and three international airports. Residential development tends to reflect low to medium densities.

Plans and Policies: The corridor counties have recently amended their comprehensive plans to accommodate transit-supportive land development policies. The Miami-Dade County Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) requires high concentrations and mixes of uses near rail stations. Development of station area policies and plans are underway and master plans for joint development is being proposed. Dade County has a formal master planning process to address station area design and improving pedestrian connections between stations and neighborhoods.

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. Parking policies in the corridor have not yet been addressed.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs: 66%

Tri-Rail’s proposed financial plan assumes $110.530.8 million (34 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds, $14.933.0 million in Section 5307 funds (5 percent), $19.3 million in Section 5309(m)(1)(A) funding (6 percent), $40.0 million in FHWA NHIR funds (12 percent), $5.0 million in CMAQ/STP funds from the Dade MPO funds (2 percent), $9.0 million in CMAQ funds from the Broward MPO (3 percent) $8.2 million in Palm Beach MPO CMAQ funds (3 percent), and $65.1 million in FDOT Transportation Trust Funds. Additionally, CSXT has agreed to provide $55 million (17 percent) to the project.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the commitment of funds from the Florida Department of Transportation to the proposed Tri-Rail Double Track Corridor Improvement Program. Additionally, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Tri-Rail and CSX Transportation, allocating $55 million, demonstrates private sector support for the project.

Agency Financial Condition: The Tri-County Commuter Rail is in sound financial condition. The commitment of $104.9 million from the FDOT and the additional private sector contribution of $55.2 million proposed by CSX Transportation will enable the Tri-Rail capital program to finance the non-Federal share of the project costs.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The construction costs for the Double Track Improvement Program appear to be reasonable given the nature and magnitude of the project. Construction costs estimates done by Tri-Rail are based upon a series of similar projects already undertaken by Tri-Rail. Tri-Rail has developed MOU’s between FDOT and CSX Transportation to provide funding in the event those insufficient federal funds is appropriated. The MOU between FDOT and Tri-Rail includes a request to accelerate funds to cover potential cost short falls in the Federal New Starts funding. The MOU between CSX and Tri-Rail will also provide short term financing for any shortfalls.

Existing and Committed Funding: The Florida Department of Transportation has committed $104.9 million for the Tri-Rail Project. Additionally, the FDOT "Five-Year Work Program" (2000-2005) programs $69.9 million in State funds and $35 million in federal highway funds. The $217.0 million in non-Section Section 5309 New Starts project costs (66%) has been committed and programmed by the State and local agencies.

New and Proposed Funding: No new sources of funding are proposed.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the stability of Tri-Rail's operating and maintenance plan. Tri-Rail has a dedicated operating revenue stream and contingency plan to support the Segment 5 Project.

Agency Financial Condition: The Tri-County Commuter Rail is in sound financial condition. Tri-Rail's operation and maintenance costs are funded with a mixture of farebox revenues, Federal, State and local funds.

Operating Costs and Contingencies: A 25 percent farebox recovery is needed for the operation of the Segment 5 Project. Over the last two years, Tri-Rail has increased its recovery rate and has experienced 27 percent Farebox Recovery Ratio. The increased services resulting from the double-track project may produce increased ridership and provide an increase in farebox revenue.

Existing and Committed Funding: System operations are proposed to be funded with fare revenues. The State is required to fund up to 50 percent of Tri-Rail's net operating budget, with the stipulation that its total contribution does not exceed the local contribution of the three counties.

New and Proposed Sources: No new funding sources are proposed in the financial plan.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $110.50 $65.07 million appropriated through FY 2000
Section 5307 $14.90 N/A
Section 5309(m)(1)(A) $19.30 N/A
FHWA NHIR Funds $40.00 N/A
FDOT Transportation Trust Fund $65.20 N/A
Dade MPO CMAQ/STP $22.20 N/A
Private Sector $55.00 N/A
Total: $327.00

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 Map of a 71.7-mile regional transportation system connecting Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties in South Florida. Beginning at the southern point of the upgraded track at Miami Airport, going northward, the proposed tri-rail stations include: Hileah, Opa-locka, Golden Glades, Hollywood, Sheridan Street, Fort Lauderdale Airport, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Airport, West Palm Beach, and Mangonia Park.

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