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San Juan, Puerto Rico/Minillas Extension

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Minillas Extension

San Juan, Puerto Rico

(November 2000)


The Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works (PRDTPW), through its Highway and Transportation Authority (PRHTA), is proposing an extension of its heavy rail rapid transit system, known as Tren Urbano Phase I (currently under construction). The proposed investment would extend Tren Urbano Phase I approximately one mile under Ponce de Leon Avenue from its current terminus at Sagrado Corazon to the Minillas area of Santurce. Santurce is home to government offices of the Commonwealth, the Luis A. Ferre Fine Arts Centers, four major hospitals, and is one of the main commercial and residential districts on the Island. Capital costs of the Minillas extension are estimated at $477.5 million (escalated dollars). The extension is forecast to carry 14,400 average weekday boardings in 2010.

Minillas Extension Summary Description

Proposed Project Heavy Rail Line;
1 mile, 2 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $477.5 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $382.6 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $2.7 million
Ridership Forecast (2010) 14,425 average weekday boardings
9,100 daily new riders
FY 2002 Financial Rating: Medium
FY 2002 Project Justification Rating: Medium-High
FY 2002 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The Recommended rating is based on the project’s cost-effectiveness, transit supportive existing land use, and the adequacy of the project’s capital and operating plans. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 2000. 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.


In 1993, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) selected Tren Urbano as one of the Turnkey Demonstration Projects under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). A Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) was signed in March 1996 for the Phase I 10.7-mile (17.2-kilometer) section of Tren Urbano. Phase I is currently under construction.

The Minillas Extension has been included in previous planning studies as part of the rail system planned for metropolitan San Juan and has been included in the regional Land Use and Transportation Plan since 1982.

In May 1997, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by FTA and PRHTA stating that the planning process undertaken for the Minillas Extension satisfied the requirements of a Major Investment Study. Further, PRHTA was authorized to proceed with development of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the extension of Tren Urbano Phase I to Minillas. In August 1997, a Notice of Intent to prepare a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) was published in the Federal Register. The DSEIS was published in July 1998 and identified the subway alignment beneath Ponce de Leon Avenue as the preferred extension alternative. The Supplemental Final EIS to examine in more detail the impacts of the Ponce de Leon extension was completed in September 1999. A Record of Decision was signed in September 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(82) authorized the San Juan Tren Urbano Extension to Minillas for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has not appropriated any funds for the Minillas Extension.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. The following evaluation criteria, unless noted, reflect a comparison of the No-Build and TSM Alternative to the proposed Minillas Extension. The TSM is defined as Phase I, Tren Urbano. The Build Alternative is the Tren Urbano Plase I along with the Minillas Extension. N/A indicates that data are unavailable for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium-High project justification rating reflects the strong transit supportive existing land use and the cost-effectiveness of the proposed project.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: High

The Minillas Extension is expected to serve 14,400 average weekday boardings and 9,100 daily new riders by 2010. PRHTA estimates that the Minillas Extension will result in the following annual travel time savings.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 33.8 million 0.9 million

Based on 1990 US census data, there are an estimated 4,349 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the two Minillas Extension stations, this represents 40% of the households within ½ miles of the stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The San Juan area is currently in compliance with all National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). PHRTA estimates the following annual emissions reductions for the Tren Urbano I and Minillas Extension. For the New Start compared to the TSM alternative there is an estimated increase in Carbon Dioxide.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 13,802 annual tons decrease of 1,436 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 699 annual tons decrease of 699 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) decrease of 1,515 annual tons decrease of 167 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) decrease of 11 annual tons decrease of 1 annual ton
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 48,564 annual tons increase of 4,538 annual tons

PRHTA estimates the proposed project will result in the following changes in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 488,977 million annual BTU increase of 87,589 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Low

PHRTA estimates an increase in system-wide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2010 compared to the No-Build alternative and equal cost per passenger mile compared to the TSM alternative.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2010) $0.25 $0.29 $0.29

Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

PHRTA estimates the following cost effectiveness indices for the Minillas Extension alternative compared to the No-Build and the TSM alternative.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $7.10 $12.60

Values reflect 2010 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High land use rating reflects the existing compact development patterns and promotion of mixed use development in the area.

Existing Conditions: The proposed extension under Ponce de Leon Avenue is located within the Santurce district, a dense, older, business district within the municipality of San Juan. The Santurce District has very high densities of population and employment and serves as the traditional national center of government and commerce. Major activity centers served by the Minillas Extension include the Center for Fine Arts, the Minillas Government Center, San Carlos Hospital, and Sagrado Corazon University. Near the proposed transit stations, the Arts Museum of Puerto Rico is under development, which includes a theater, a library, and other public spaces. Other projects underway include the Public Square Complex, proposed to have 1.9 million square feet, an expansion to the Pavia Hospital, and an expansion of the YMCA. Currently, there are 26 persons per acre residing in the corridor and 14 employees per acre.

Future Plans and Policies: The Puerto Rico Planning Board’s Land Use Plan Objectives and Public Policies promote mixed use developments to support greater accessibility among various land uses. Population in the corridor is anticipated to increase from 100,000 in 1990 to 106,900 in 2010, a 7 percent increase. Employment in the corridor is expected to increase from 108,800 employees in 1990 to 122,000 in 2010, a 12 percent increase. Pedestrian amenities are addressed in the Special Zoning Regulation for Santurce as well as the Governor’s Guide for the Regulation of Public Space Infrastructure. The Transportation Plan of Puerto Rico proposes parking management and regulation to adjust parking prices and supply, but the plan does not suggest any specific strategy to reduce parking ratios for development in proposed station areas. Plans suggesting specific responses to the proposed Minillas extension are still in the process of development. Local zoning regulations are determined by the legislature of the Commonwealth. A proposal to devolve that authority to the municipality of San Juan is still under consideration in the legislature.

In April 2000, the Planning Board adopted Resolution 2000-263, which creates two special interagency committees (both with PRHTA membership) to advance the integration of transit and land use. In August 2000, the Governor signed into law a bill designed to advance the goal of transit-oriented development. Senate Bill 2652 amends the PRHTA Enabling Act by making transit-oriented joint development an explicit public purpose of the Authority, authorizing it to assemble and dispose of land for that purpose, and allowing it to participate in the economics of joint development projects.

Other Factors

Turnkey Construction: Tren Urbano Phase I is one of the FTA designated Turnkey Demonstration Projects. Phase I is being constructed and will be operated under a turnkey procurement which has expedited the implementation of the project. The Minillas Extension would also employ turnkey procurement.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 20%

The financing plan for the Minillas Extension is interrelated with funding for Phase I and the Commonwealth’s highway program, and relies upon a combination of bond receipts, tax revenues, and legislative appropriations. PHRTA’s financial plan assumes $382.6 million from Section 5309 New Start funds (80 percent) and local funding sources totaling $94.9 million (20 percent). The total Federal New Starts share of the entire Tren Urbano Phase I and the proposed Minillas Extension will equal $681.8 million, or roughly one-third of the total project cost.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High rating reflects that the Non-Section 5309 share of funds are committed to the project. PRHTA has more than adequate dedicated funding sources and additional debt capacity available to cover any potential cost increases in the project.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The PHRTA is in sound financial condition.

As the transportation department for Puerto Rico, the PHRTA is responsible for the transportation system throughout the Commonwealth and receives revenue from both a dedicated fuels tax and the toll road system it administers. Because of extremely high levels of traffic congestion, toll road revenues have steadily increased and are projected to increase as more roads are constructed.

The PRHTA was recently approved for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan commitment of $300 million for the construction of Phase I of the Tren Urbano system. This loan enables PHRTA to reduce the level of bonds issued for the project and thus reduce the overall debt service payments for the bonds. This enables the use of additional local financial resources to secure bonds to construct the Minillas Extension Phase IA.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital cost estimates for the Minillas Extension Phase IA, based upon 30 percent preliminary engineering, are consistent with the capital costs incurred for the Phase I of the Tren Urbano System, when compared by cost per square foot of construction. However, the Minillas Extension will be constructed mostly through a tunnel, so all site condition risks are not currently known. The assumed growth of pledged revenues is very conservative, with growth rates much lower than historical experience.

Existing and Committed Funding: The proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts share of project costs is $94.9 million, or 20 percent of the total capital costs. Local funding will be generated from bond issuance. Funds to repay the bonds are committed to the project and are from the following revenue sources: a $0.16 per gallon gasoline tax; gross receipts from an annual per motor vehicle license fee, of which $15 is dedicated to PRHTA; all existing toll facility revenues; and investment earnings on deposits resulting from the issuance of bonds.

New and Proposed Sources: No specific new funding sources are proposed. However, the Secretary of Transportation has the authority to focus all available capital financial resources to the Tren Urbano Minillas Extension and can generate additional revenues, if necessary, by increasing tolls on existing toll roads.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium rating reflects the operating condition of the PHRTA and the dedication of funds for the on-going operations and maintenance of the Tren Urbano system. The rating also reflects the lack of specific operating revenue projections and lack of historical basis to project costs because the agency has not operated a heavy rail system.

Agency Operating Condition: The PHRTA receives revenues from toll roads and dedicated fuels taxes. The Tren Urbano System, when constructed, is anticipated to carry heavy daily passenger loads and may provide an operating revenue surplus. However, PRHTA’s projected cash balances would not cover one month of operating balances in the early years of the financial plan. Furthermore, operating revenues are not specifically projected within the plan for both Tren Urbano projects.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The first five years of Tren Urbano’s operating and maintenance costs are included as part of the project’s Design-Build contract. The operating cost for the Phase IA Minillas Extension was estimated by adding the incremental operating cost of one mile and two stations to the costs of operating the 10.7-mile Phase I operating and maintenance cost bid.

Existing and Committed Funding: Funding for operating and maintenance are committed to the project as part of the Design-Build contract. Long-term bonds may be issued to cover any other operating and maintenance costs.

New and Proposed Sources: No new revenue sources are proposed to fund project operation.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $382.6 $0.0 million appropriated through FY 2001 for the Minillas Extension
Local: PHRTA Funding $94.9


Total: $477.5

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

Minillas Extension Map of proposed extension of Tren Urbano Phase I approximately one mile under Ponce de Leon Avenue from its current terminus at Sagrado Corazon to the Minillas area of Santurce.

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