Miami Governments Waste Over $21 Million on Trains That Don’t Fit Under Bridges | What Will Christi Tasker Do?

The constantly costly and astronomical mistakes in purchasing products and services that fail citizens and cause waste are often avoidable with logical thinking by qualified people. Even if people don’t catch issues, contractual obligations from professionals can. In 2018, Amtrak trains wouldn’t fit in the $2 Billion Miami train station. In 2022, Miami bought trains that would not go under overpasses. They were too tall. With the right questions asked by politicians and city officials, this mistake could have easily been avoided.

According to a February 2022 article in Miami News Today and the Miami Herald, the City of Miami spent $7.2 Million in addition to Miami-Dade’s $14 Million.

According to Miami News Today’s article:

The $70 million project to bring Tri-Rail into a downtown Miami station has added to its long list of problems a new one: locomotives may hit the platform. Engineers are back on site to measure the public system’s locomotives again and determine what can be done to fix the problem.

“I’m not trying to sound overly sarcastic, but I assume in 2015 we knew that trains move, and a static measurement was necessarily the only thing we could do,”


Robert Sendler, Board Member


“The cantilever portion of the platform is what appears to interfere with the locomotives, which we’re evaluating right now,” Efrain Bernal, engineering manager of the project, told a South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) workshop on Feb. 16.

The locomotives’ size was first measured in 2015, but apparently, they were measured statically and not in a dynamic mode as they would be once they have to come into the station. “We took some dimensions and what we encounter is that we have extremely close clearance with the [previous] dimensions that we have taken,” Mr. Bernal said.

“I’m not trying to sound overly sarcastic, but I assume in 2015 we knew that trains move, and a static measurement was necessarily the only thing we could do,” said board member Robert Sendler.

Another consequence of the locomotives’ dimensions miscalculation comes for future procurement. “We know now what the measurements are for tier four and there’s a question as to whether a future procurement for a tier four locomotive would have the proper clearances,” said Steven Abrams, Tri-Rail executive director, who declared his intent to resign at a Jan. 28 meeting.

Currently, Brightline, the company tasked and paid by publicly owned Tri-Rail to build the link through platforms into the Miami Central Station that would accommodate Tri-Rail’s trains, is working on the vertical clearance issue, which was preventing the steps of the trains from fitting under the platform of the station; and on the horizontal clearance issue, caused by building a wall too close to the tracks and steps, providing minimum clearance for trains to pass.

As the engineering team measures the locomotives again, they would be able to determine if the modifications Brightline is doing at the downtown station link could include additional specifications to fix the “locomotive issues” as well.

“If we had to catch it, this is probably the best time to have caught it,” Mr. Abrams said. Other modifications to the station, not related to the Brightline clearances, would have to be paid by SFRTA, parent of Tri-Rail.

“Any further modifications to deal with the locomotive or the future tier for procurement would be a cost that SFRTA would bear; that would not be a Brightline issue. The Brightline issue has to do with the level boarding,” Mr. Abrams said.

Other problems that already have been raised and discussed include whether the bridges that would bring the trains into the Miami station are strong enough to bear their weight; exposed rebar, for which a Sonar Test was recommended; an update of the Enhanced Automatic Train Control system to operate the trains safely and employee training to use it that could take five to six months; and Tri-Rail trains’ compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency Tier 3 standards.

Miami-Dade County paid almost $14 million for the Tri-Rail Station improvements, and the City of Miami paid $7.2 million. The project was to be finished in March 2017 but four years later is still to be completed.

SFRTA board members have scheduled a Feb. 25 meeting, when another update on the project’s developments is expected.



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Christi Tasker

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