Miami-Dade scores $1.4M in federal earmarks for transit-oriented development
Image via Miami-Dade County.

South Corridor Miami-Dade
More than a tenth of the money in this round of Federal Transit Administration set-asides is for Florida’s most populous county.

Miami-Dade County is on track to receive $1.4 million in federal funding to support transit projects in its northeastern and southeastern corners.

Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced 19 grant awards through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law totaling $13.1 million for pilot programs across the country.

More than a tenth of the money is set aside for Florida’s most populous county.

The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works will get $840,000 to advance development of the Northeast Corridor, a long-planned project intended to run on Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and Aventura.

The funds will go toward drafting a master plan for transit-oriented developments — mixed-use, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly construction projects intended to serve as employment, housing and commercial hubs — at or between the corridor’s five stations.

Another $533,000 will go to Homestead to help finance transit-oriented developments around three rapid-bus stations along the South Corridor. The corridor will run on the existing South Dade Transitway, a linear, 20-mile busway between the southernmost Metrorail station near Dadeland Mall in the county’s unincorporated Kendall neighborhood and Homestead Station in the city’s downtown area.

The South Corridor is currently under construction by OHL USA Inc., which in September 2020 won a $368 million design-build contract to redevelop the corridor for “gold standard” bus rapid transit. Funding for the project includes $100 million matches from the state and federal government.

The Northeast and South corridors are part of the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, an initiative Miami-Dade Commissioners adopted in 2016 to study, select transit modes and seek matching state and federal funds for six high-volume commuting routes across the county.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Tuesday that the incoming federal funding builds on “major announcements” her administration made this month about expanding the Metromover line to cover the Beach Corridor of the SMART Plan between Miami and South Beach and amending the SMART Plan’s North Corridor route to link the Metrorail to Hard Rock Stadium.

“Thanks to this funding from the federal government, we are making strong investments to expand our transportation system and our housing inventory, two of the biggest priorities of my administration,” Levine Cava said in a statement.

“Strong public transit systems — including our roads, bridges, and bicycle and pedestrian safety — connect our residents to good-paying jobs, protect our environment and improve our quality of life.”

Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III, Chair of the county’s powerful transportation planning board, said establishing transit-oriented developments “is a critical component of the SMART Plan.”

“Doing so will allow us to continue to build up the critical mass transit needed around transit facilities to support an efficient and sustainable transit system,” he said.

It’ll also help to counterbalance South Florida’s skyrocketing housing costs, added Eileen Higgins, who Chairs the Miami-Dade Commission’s Transportation, Mobility and Planning Committee and has spearheaded an effort to redevelop and densify more than 20 acres in a downtown Miami area called Government Center.

“Housing is always more affordable when it’s closer to reliable public transportation,” she said. “This funding from the Federal Transit Administration represents hundreds of new units that will address the housing crisis we are experiencing in Miami-Dade, while creating economic and employment hubs along our transit corridors.”

On Nov. 17, the FTA announced the award of $13.1 million worth of grants to 19 transit-oriented development projects in 14 states. Only California, Alabama and Maryland received more funds than Florida, taking $2.85 million, $1.6 million and $1.5 million, respectively.

According to an FTA press note, the money is meant to aid local government planning, increase transit access and encourage ridership through mixed-use and mixed-income developments.

The administration selected eligible projects based on criteria detailed in a notice of funding opportunity, which for the first time required applicants to prioritize transit-oriented developments in areas with high incidence rates of homelessness.

Nearly 89% of the applicants selected in this round of grant awards addressed homelessness in their proposals.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide nearly $69 million in funding for the federal Pilot Program for TOD Planning through 2026, representing a 38% increase over the prior five years of funding.

“Transit stations represent access to jobs, schools, affordable housing and so much more,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “With this funding … more communities will be able to develop the areas around their transit stations, which will mean stronger local economies, cleaner air, and better access to the essential services families rely on.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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