A P3 will finance transit link between Miami and Miami Beach

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Miami-Dade County plans to use a public-private partnership to move forward with a long-planned project to add a transit option between Miami and Miami Beach.

The county has released a request for proposals for firms interested in entering into a contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain turn-key rapid mass transit service along the Beach Corridor Trunk Line.

The new transit service can be an elevated automated people mover, an elevated monorail or light rail, or at-grade bus rapid transit in new dedicated lanes, according to the RFP.

The exact route hasn’t been decided, but the county said in its 1,762-page RFP that it believes the 3.5-mile-long MacArthur Causeway, which links downtown Miami and South Beach, may be the “optimal route to alleviate traffic, improve connectivity, and obtain the best possible value.”

Each firm submitting a proposal is expected to provide all of the financing required to meet its obligations, the RFP said. The county is open to receiving alternative financing suggestions but said those proposals will not be counted when responses to the RFP are evaluated.

The county plans to negotiate a contract in two phases. First will be the approval of an interim agreement during which the schedule of milestone and availability payments will be negotiated. The second phase will lead to a final agreement.

Adding new transit options in the Beach Corridor has been studied since the late 1980s, but finalizing a plan that also requires approval from Miami and Miami Beach has been complex. Funding has also been an issue.

County commissioners approved moving forward with a competitive RFP process at their Sept. 4 meeting.

“I just see this as one more commitment toward getting people out of their cars,” said Commissioner Sally Heyman.

Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. said, “We haven’t done anything substantial in transit in a long, long time. We need to move the conversation beyond just mechanics and actually start seeing a bulldozer rip up dirt and do something.”

Proposals are due March 17, 2020. They will be evaluated in July 2020, with an interim agreement expected to be awarded later in the year.

The current RFP process was sparked by the county’s receipt of an unsolicited proposal in April from the Malaysian casino company Genting, which owns waterfront property on Biscayne Bay, a site that was headquarters for the Miami Herald.

Genting proposed building a $400 million monorail in conjunction with the Chinese company BYD.

In a letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez about the proposal, Florida's U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, expressed concern over the “potential dangers to U.S. economic and national security” from the county considering the use of a Chinese firm.

That led to commissioners' Sept. 4 vote to seek competitive proposals from other companies, an approach that doesn’t exclude the plan submitted by Genting.

Major players in the P3 industry have already expressed interest in the county’s plan. Attendees at a pre-proposal submission meeting on Oct. 1 included Meridiam, Aecom, JPMorgan, Kiewit, HNTB Corp., OHL North America, Mitsubishi, Stantec Inc., Arup, American Maglev and Plenary Group. Representatives of BYD also attended.

The Beach Corridor is a critical segment of the county’s transportation plan to serve “two of the most densely populated areas in the county,” according to the RFP.

“Both the Downtown Miami/Overtown mainland area and Miami Beach have been subject to rapid population growth that is expected to continue on an upward trajectory, growing 75% by 2035, with an expected countywide increase of 31% by 2035,” the RFP said.

Miami had 471,000 residents as of July 18, 2018, while Miami Beach’s population was estimated at 91,700, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Miami-Dade County’s population was estimated at 2.7 million.

“Both the county and the areas to be primarily serviced by the Beach Corridor are also undergoing increasing growth in business development and tourism,” said the RFP.

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Public-private partnership Transportation industry Public finance Miami-Dade County City of Miami, FL City of Miami Beach, FL Florida