Last week, the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners awarded a $313 million contract to AnsaldoBreda to design and build 136 new Metrorail cars to replace the existing fleet. The contract was awarded after a lengthy competitive solicitation process that included several twists and turns, including a local bid protest, a bid protest to the Federal Transit Administration, and an FTA review of AnsaldoBreda’s design, manufacturing, and assembly plan to ensure compliance with “Buy America”. In the end, AnsaldoBreda’s proposal was given the green light by both local and federal authorities, and the first of the new railcars are scheduled to arrive in 2015. (The complexity of the federal regulations, which apply to all federally funded transportation projects, merits its own post.)
New rails expected to increase development opportunities
To be sure, the new, high-tech trains will go a long way towards updating the Miami area’s transportation infrastructure and preparing the region for future growth. But the project will also create several spin-off projects and benefits. Significantly, AnsaldoBreda will be developing an assembly facility in Miami-Dade County where the new trains will be assembled. This facility will create permanent manufacturing and engineering jobs, in addition to the short-term jobs required to develop and construct the facility. The County is also considering rehabilitating its existing Metrorail maintenance facilities, including constructing a half-mile test track, in order to facilitate the final testing and certification of the new railcars and improve its maintenance operations. Thus, the new train contract directly leads to two new, large-scale facilities.
Indirectly, the new trains and increased ridership will lead to even more new development opportunities. These may include further expansions to the Metrorail system similar to the new extension to the airport that opened earlier this year, new transfer points between Metrorail and other forms of public and mass transportation, such as the planned intercity rail line connecting Miami and Orlando, and new Metrorail stations and surrounding developments.
Significantly, all of these developments may, and probably will, involve public-private partnerships in order to maximize the public benefit using a minimum of public dollars.