All Aboard Florida showcases ambitious transportation plans
By Derek Joy
All Aboard Florida held a press conference on the very site that once housed the Florida East Coast Railroad Station in Downtown Miami.
The occasion was to unveil ambitious transportation plans to construct its Flagship station in Miami as part of its passenger train service between Miami and Orlando.
“This is the most unique and exciting transportation project in the entire country,” said Vincent Signorello, president and CEO of Florida East Coast Industries, the parent company of All Aboard Florida.
“The train will connect the Downtown area of Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to the Orlando Airport area. This means thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact for South Florida.”
Acknowledging the vision and impact of Henry Flagler’s decision to extend his Florida East Railroad into Miami just after the turn of the last century, Signorello and All Aboard Florida President and Chief Development Officer Michael Reininger expressed similar expectations of this venture.
Construction is scheduled to begin later this year with a late 2016 completion date. The Miami Station will feature a futuristic look of two-and-half mill-ion square feet and include a multitude of shops.
It is situated on the very site that once housed the Florida East Railroad Station, on the east side of Government Center, expanding to the northwest that covers some 11.2-acres.
“This offers a very bright future for Downtown Miami,” Reininger said. “It will fuel our place as a forward place. The economy of South Florida grew up because of the Florida East Coast Railroad. All Aboard Florida will have the same impact.
“We’re doing this in a way that’s never been done before. This will generate thousands of jobs and two-and-a half-billion dollars in economic impact. There will be 16 trips a day between Miami and Orlando. It takes about three hours.”
Architect Roger Duffy, design partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, which designed the Miami Station, was on hand to discuss the merits of the Miami Station constructed on a platform 50 feet above the ground.
Duffy likened the impacts of the anticipated completion to that of Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
The plans, progress and projected economic impacts met the approval of Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, along with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Frank Carollo.
“This is a unified effort on the Commission,” said Regalado. “It marks the start of a very exciting chapter in the history of Miami. This will be a game changer. In late 2016 you’ll see thousands of people in Downtown Miami after 6 p.m.”
Added Gimenez: “As we look around Downtown today, you can’t help but see tremendous growth in the last 10 years. It is essential that the private sector is involved. The good thing about this project is that isn’t costing the city of Miami or Miami Dade County anything. Absolutely nothing.”
Locally, the project will create 457 rail line jobs, between 2014 and 2016. TOD Construction is forecasting an average of 1,700 jobs between 2014 and 2018, and 408 on-going jobs created for operations sustained through 2021.
“This project won’t move any-body from Overtown. It could help. But everything else could’ve helped,” said Irby Mc-Knight, a long time Overtown activist. “I want to see that there are jobs for people in Over-town”.
G. Eric Knowles, president and CEO of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce, offered a broader perspective.
Said Knowles: “It’s a good thing as long as we’re involved in the game. Miami isn’t growing as it needs to grow unless everybody is involved. Blacks getting jobs, business opportunities and the chance to grow. If that happens, then it’s a good thing.”
Connectivity was expressly conveyed in the plans that were unveiled.
“This station will connect Downtown Miami to the residents of Overtown. And that’s a big deal to us,” said Signorello.
“World class cities only prosper with world class transportation.”