Signs of progress: Support columns for the AirportLink Metrorail extension are visible alongside Miami's Airport Expressway.
Construction of the AirportLink, the only passenger rail line currently under construction in Florida, is quickly progressing. Having broken ground on May 1, 2009, the AirportLink is now more than 43 percent completed, with more than 60 percent of its piers already erected.
The AirportLink is a 2.4-mile extension of Miami-Dade Transit's Metrorail, an elevated 22.6-mile rail line that serves downtown Miami, as well as communities in southern and northern Miami-Dade County.
The AirportLink will extend from the existing Earlington Heights Station to the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), a major transportation hub being developed adjacent to Miami International Airport (MIA) by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Like New York City's Grand Central Station, the MIC will connect different modes of transportation, including Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Metrobus, Greyhound buses and taxi cabs. In the future, Amtrak and possibly high-speed rail could be added. Another component of the MIC is a centralized car rental facility, which opened this month.
"This Metrorail extension will provide a vital link for the millions of visitors, residents and airport employees who travel to and from the airport every year," said Harpal Kapoor, director of MDT, the county department responsible for public transportation in the Miami metropolitan area. "The AirportLink will serve as a cornerstone of Miami-Dade's development as a world-class community by providing a rapid transit connection to the airport."
Signs of the project's progress are visible alongside Miami's Airport Expressway, where you can see the new supporting columns springing up and a portion of the rail line being bridged across the expressway.
The AirportLink is projected to open in 2012. Once completed, Metrorail passengers will be able to access the new Miami International Airport Station at the MIC from anywhere along the existing 22-station Metrorail line. An automated people mover will connect MIA with the MIC.
The project also includes the construction of access roadways, a bus terminal complex and the MIC's pedestrian connection.
"Together with public and private partners, we are aggressively building and upgrading facilities, including a major Metrorail expansion, which is critical to our future success," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said. "If the Miami Intermodal Center is our 21st century hub for mass transit, then this Metrorail extension is its heart. Residents and visitors will no longer have to fight traffic or pay for parking. They can just hop on Metrorail and take the stress out of getting to the airport."
With the AirportLink, Miami-Dade will join the ranks of other major metropolitan centers with rapid-transit connections to their airports, which will greatly facilitate both tourism and trade.
More than 2,800 new daily riders are expected to board Metrorail at the Miami International Airport Station once it opens in 2012. It will significantly reduce carbon emissions from cars, thereby helping Miami-Dade County achieve its targets for reducing its carbon footprint.
Most of the funding for the $526 million project is coming from the People's Transportation Plan half-penny sales surtax approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002, plus $100 million from FDOT.
Metrorail originally opened on May 20, 1984, at a cost of $1.03 billion. Metrorail trains can reach top speeds of 58 mph with an average speed of 31 mph.
"Twenty-six years after it opened, it's almost impossible to imagine a Miami-Dade County without Metrorail," Kapoor said. "Every day, tens of thousands of residents and commuters depend on Metrorail to get them to work, school, entertainment, shopping, or to visit friends and family. And come 2012, it will also take them to the airport."