By: Rob Wile
Wynwood business leaders are backing construction of a train station to serve commuters in the trendy enclave — part of Miami-Dade’s plan to expand local rail in its northeast corridor.
The Wynwood Business Improvement District said Wednesday it has agreed in principle to help build a station at Northeast 27th Street between North Miami Avenue and Northeast 2nd Avenue. Estimated cost: $2 million. The station would also serve Midtown and Edgewater residents.
In a statement, Wynwood BID Chairman Albert Garcia said commuter rail is essential to alleviating road congestion and improving walkability in the fast-growing neighborhoods.
Existing property owners at the proposed site also said they were eager to support the station project in conjunction with private rail company Brightline, formerly known as Virgin Trains.
“It’s clear that a Wynwood/Midtown/Edgewater station would provide the greatest benefit to the most people,” said Bill Rammos, who owns part of the proposed 27th Street station frontage along the FEC/Brightline railway corridor. “My family is committed to facilitating accessible and affordable transit options to and from our community.”
As part of the effort, the BID commissioned station design concepts from Miami-based Naturalficial Landscape Architecture + Design. The BID also announced the creation of the Northeast Corridor Coalition to support commuter rail along the FEC Railway/Brightline corridor. The coalition will also include Florida International University and Miami-Dade College.
In May, Brightline proposed a partnership with Miami-Dade County to allow commuter rail service on its tracks, with stops in Wynwood, the Design District, El Portal, North Miami and the Biscayne Bay campus of FIU. The project would complete the Northeast Corridor component in the 2016 transit initiative called the SMART Plan.
It followed the announcement last October that Miami-Dade agreed to pay Brightline about $76 million for a commuter-compatible station in Aventura.
It is not yet clear whether Brightline would operate the proposed commuter rail service, or merely lease the FEC tracks through its parent company Florida East Coast Industries. A representative for the mayor’s office said in an email that the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works remains in negotiations with Brightline.
In an email, a Brightline spokesman said: “This project has a tremendous amount of community support and people are excited about the possibility to connect Miami-Dade like never before. We continue to have positive discussions with the county.”
The express rail company has separate plans in the works for Brightline stations in Boca Raton and PortMiami. Brightline suspended regular Miami to West Palm Beach service in March amid the coronavirus outbreak, though construction continues on its route to Orlando.
Miami-Dade officials have not made any new announcements about the commuter rail effort since May. The county commission voted in June to instruct Mayor Carlos Gimenez to come back this fall with an action plan for review.
The county is banking on private groups like the Wynwood BID to furnish resources for the stations, according to Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the legislation that led to the Aventura station agreement.
“We want to have private partners do the platforms,” she said.
Commuter rail in the county’s northeast corridor has been proposed for decades. Wynwood’s Garcia hopes that the combination of Brightline and federal funds available through the CARES Act for shovel-ready projects will spur action.
“We really needed this federal component,” Garcia said. “This is a lightning-in-a-bottle moment, once in a lifetime. You can’t do it alone privately, can’t do it alone publicly with all local dollars…all these things are lining up, so from a timing standpoint, this is a game-changer.”
Doug Hanks contributed to this report.