ADDITION OF COASTAL LINK COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE WOULD HAVE AN ADVERSE IMPACT TO ESTABLISHED WATERWAY COMMERCE AND VEHICLE TRAFFIC ON CITY’S MAIN THROUGHFARE
ISSUE: Proposed increase in rail traffic over the New River would exceed capacity of current bridge and would potentially destroy vital commercial navigation and activities on those waterways if key concerns are not adequately addressed. Additional trains over Broward Boulevard would cause gridlock in an already overburdened roadway vital to the center of city commerce district.
BACKGROUND: Coastal Link commuter rail service is proposed to provide express intercity passenger rail service connecting Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach to Orlando and points north. The current bridge has very low clearance and additional closures will be required to accommodate the increased traffic. The increased bridge closures would be exceeding reasonable needs of navigation and restrict access to the marine boat yards and facilities upstream from the bridges, not to mention the disruption to tourism and commercial waterway traffic. In fact, thirteen of South Florida’s recreational vessel repair facilities and two boat ramps are upstream and there is an indication boat owners will go elsewhere to do their repairs should navigation of the river become more difficult. Access to boat trade shows and other events is essential. In South Florida, the marine industry is a $12.5 billion economic engine with 149,000 jobs, a $9.7 billion economic impact and 121,000 jobs in Broward County alone. Customers are highly mobile, able to easily move locations that are more convenient to access. The boating experience in South Florida is a very significant part of the community.
AREA OF IMPACT: The increased rail traffic over the New River will severely and negatively impact the navigation upstream from the train bridge, particularly for vessel repair facilities, water taxi service and commercial tug and barge traffic, as well the recreational boating community. As the 6th largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S. and the largest in Florida, our region will continue to grow. This past year we have seen significant growth in boat sales, which will increase the demand for service and has increased navigation on the New River. Plans for a new federal courthouse, a joint campus for city and county governments, as well as 7,000 new residential units in downtown Fort Lauderdale, on top of an expanding and growing marine industry, demand additional infrastructure. That level of growth demands flyovers over the railroad tracks on the east/west corridors of Commercial Boulevard, Oakland Boulevard, Sunrise Boulevard, and S.R. 84. It demands a higher iconic bascule bridge or a tunnel for passenger rail to cross the New River that stretches all the way to the Brightline train station on the north side of Broward Boulevard, so, like any world-class city, passenger trains do not impede vehicular or marine traffic. It requires the greater Broward County community, which sits in the middle of regionalism, to support enhanced infrastructure projects. In fact, residents of this community demanded improved transportation conditions when they overwhelmingly voted in favor of taxing themselves to pay for it.
ACTIONS TAKEN: The Marine Industries Association of South Florida on behalf of the industry successfully helped to secure $750,000 in the State budget for FDOT to update a study from 2005 to identify solutions that will safeguard navigation without limiting progress, jump starting the FDOT Transportation Development Process. In 2020 Broward County signed an MOU for the Coastal Link project permitting FDOT to move to the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study phase of the project. The PD&E is expected to be completed by early 2022.
ACTION NEEDED: Federal funds will be needed to facilitate the updated crossing over the New River to accommodate all passenger rail – at this time we are waiting for Broward County MPO to identify the specific funding request so the ask will be uniform and consistent.