Transit Briefs: WMATA, SFRTA/Tri-Rail

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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Four Green Line stations on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) system will reopen on Saturday, Sept. 2. Also, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) is seeking a Miami-Dade vendor with ADA-accessible vehicles for first-/last-mile Tri-Rail accommodations.

WMATA announced Aug. 29 that Greenbelt, College Park-University of Maryland, Hyattsville Crossing and West Hyattsville stations, which have been closed since July 22, will reopen for rail service on Saturday, Sat. 2. The reopening will be three days sheds of schedule and the project will be completed under budget, according to the agency.

According to WMATA, while the four Green Line stations were closed, the agency installed more than 220,000 linear feet of fiber-optic cable to improve radio and signal capabilities and provide the infrastructure necessary for future upgrades, such as Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC). Because the cables are housed in the middle of the two tracks, WMATA says construction crews could only complete their work while both tracks were out of service.

During the fiber-optic cable installation, crews replaced 8,000 feet of rail, 900 rail fasteners, 1,250 wood crossties, and resurfaced 20,000 feet of track, which, WMATA says, will improve the ride quality for customers through this section of the system. Crews also removed 60,000 feet of vegetation along the tracks, improving safety by providing a clear line of sight for train operators and maintenance workers.

“We are proud of the important infrastructure improvements we made this summer which will benefit our customers with more reliable and timely service for years to come,” said WMATA Chief of Infrastructure Andy Off. “We thank our customers for their patience as we completed this necessary work ahead of schedule and under budget to modernize our rail system. We can’t wait to see you on board!”

The Green Line work caps off an intensive summer construction effort that started in May to upgrade infrastructure necessary to maintain safe and reliable service for customers.

This summer, WMATA installed more than 26 miles of new rail and 72 miles of fiber-optic cables across the Orange, Green and Silver lines. During each phase of the work, crews also installed new switch box machines and cleared vegetation that can cause disruptions and obstruct operator visibility.

SFRTA Director David Dech is “actively seeking” a Miami-Dade vendor with ADA-accessible vehicles to “round out his first-/last-mile Tri-Rail accommodations in the county,” according to a Miami Today report.

According to the report, Tri-Rail has already found vendors in Broward and Palm Beach counties that can serve the disabled, Dech said, but “Miami-Dade has been a harder nut to crack.”

Toward the bottom of the SFRTA website, is a “Ride Partner Service” link offering discount vouchers to and from the nearest Tri-Rail station in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Dech said he expects to add Miami-Dade soon, according to the report.

According to the Miami Today report, as Tri-Rail’s voucher system expands, also available at the Fort Lauderdale Cypress Creek Station is Freebee’s on-demand “electric microtransit” service. Through June 2024, the service is free under a one-year demonstration grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

“Before Dech took the throttle at Tri-Rail, the voucher service was only available at six stations. Now it’s available at all Broward and Palm Beach County Tri-Rail stations and Dech has Miami-Dade County squarely in his sights,” according to the report.

“Finding vendors offering transit for the disabled has been the sticking point in Miami-Dade,” according to the report, which adds that Tri-Rail is also considering starting a scooter service in the county, but “we have to be able to provide ADA accessible vehicles,” Dech said.

Achieving that goal has been a struggle for Dech, who completed his first year as SFRTA Director on Aug. 15, according to the Miami Today report.

“Every day I think I’m close and every day it doesn’t happen. I think I’m close, but I just can’t put a pin in it yet,” Dech told Miami Today. “We recognize that getting to and from the train is a big obstacle,” said Dech, who added that right now, “we are open to working with any partner who is willing and able to work with us.”

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