Management & Operations

Miami's Intermodal Center Will Bring Bus, Rail and Peoplemovers Under One Roof

Posted on February 1, 2005 by By Steven Thompson

Anyone who has traveled through Miami International Airport knows that getting to the beach, or even the renowned Calle Ocho, can seemingly take as long as the flight. Considering current levels of traffic and expected increases in congestion from Miami’s tourist and resident population, getting out of the airport and to one’s destination can be a confusing, timely and perhaps even intimidating task. With this in mind, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), together with a coalition of diverse stakeholders, is developing a modern transportation “super hub” adjacent to the airport. This hub, formally known as the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), represents a thoughtful effort to streamline not only air transportation, but also key land and sea routes originating in, from and around Miami airport and spreading out to south Florida and beyond. At 1.2 million square feet, the MIC will basically consolidate under one roof intercity trains — including the proposed Metrorail system — buses, taxis and an automated peoplemover system that will shuttle people between the center and the airport. It will also encompass a four-story facility for more than 6,500 rentals cars. The MIC is expected to connect an estimated 150,000 people each day to these transportation modes, plus allow for an additional 1.4 million square feet of office, hotel and other commercial space. With the MIC’s Phase 1 projects scheduled to open in 2008, the ability of this large-scale project to meet the needs of a diverse and growing commuter base depends largely on active involvement from a variety of stakeholders and their ability to work cooperatively to make the MIC become a reality. Coordination is key
Interagency coordination is the responsibility of the MIC Steering Committee. The steering committee, headed by the secretary of FDOT’s District 6, is composed of 12 representatives from leading state, federal and local agencies and organizations, including the Miami-Dade County Government, the South Florida Regional Transit Authority, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration and others. Kouroche Mohandes, FDOT’s project manager for the MIC, describes the steering committee as “much like our board of directors, which sets overall strategic direction, goals, plans and schedules.” Yet, unlike a company board, which meets annually or perhaps twice a year, the MIC steering committee meets every six weeks. This meeting frequency is notable, especially in architecture/engineering/construction (A/E/C) project management organizations. Indeed, A/E/C management schedules and strategy sessions are typically characterized by initial stakeholder involvement, but with a subsequent decrease in actual day-to-day project management. The assured regularity of the MIC’s steering committee meetings reflects the essential commitment from the project sponsors and stakeholders that is critical to the success of such an enormous undertaking. It is also important to note that while all parties on the steering committee may approach the table with different agendas, the real value of the committee is that the work of the various agencies progresses based upon a broad and workable consensus by the committee members. The MIC’s steering committee is indicative of what the intermodal system is all about. After all, successful intermodal projects are, by their very nature, collective efforts. Washington, D.C.’s, Union Station is a good example of an operating intermodal system, particularly from a rail and bus perspective. Both national and commuter rail move in and out of Union Station every hour, while the city’s famed subway system connects just one floor below the rail platforms. The front of Union Station is reserved for city buses, taxis and passenger pick-up services, while the back of the station houses a multilevel parking garage as well as slips for national bus carriers such as Greyhound. By contrast, the MIC will house all of these transportation modes as well as linkages to air carriers and to the nearby marine facilities. The addition of these other transportation elements adds greater complexity, stakeholder concerns and, of course, costs. Multiple funding sources
Whereas pre-existing large structures like Union Station have already been financed, the road to financing new intermodal construction is perhaps one of the more salient issues when considering intermodal projects. To address growing concerns about the nation’s transportation infrastructure and projected U.S. population growth, Congress introduced the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991. ISTEA was groundbreaking in many ways, but most notably for providing increased funding and flexibility for large-scale transportation projects with an emphasis on intermodal projects such as the MIC. Another federal funding mechanism is the Transportation Infrastructure Funding Innovate Finance Act (TIFIA). TIFIA is a part of the larger Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) and affords state and local governments expanded assets and solid backing when applying ISTEA. With a price tag of $1.34 billion for Phase 1, the MIC was one of the first projects to receive financing under these federal provisions. MIC funding is further complemented by expected tenant-facility charges plus a variety of innovative state and local initiatives separate from TIFIA. For example, Phase 1 will include a new $312 million automated peoplemover system that will link the MIC and the airport terminals. The cost of the new system is being funded by the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD), which is also implementing its own capital improvement program to modernize airport facilities independent of the MIC. Thus, financial commitment from MDAD meets multiple purposes. The $312 million financial commitment from MDAD tells another story about intermodal funding and the MIC’s management decision making. With the events of 9/11, the aviation industry and tourist destinations like south Florida were particularly hard hit economically. Suddenly, Miami-Dade faced a funding crisis. With a loss of revenue from these sectors and the $312 million earmarked for the local funding component of the MIC, the automated peoplemover was in jeopardy. That’s when the steering committee stepped in and revealed the strength and flexibility of its consensus-based approach to intermodal program management. Members of the committee had been kept up to date on the funding crisis, and various members of the committee, most notably FDOT, the Miami-Dade County manager’s office and MDAD sought ways to help resolve the aviation department’s fiscal crisis so that the project could move forward. In the end, a problem that could have delayed the MIC program indefinitely was minimized and mitigated. Although it did affect the timeline of Phase 1, the completion date was pushed back only 18 months. Growth demands response
According to regional forecasts, Miami-Dade County’s population is expected to increase by 70% to more than 3 million residents by 2020. Not surprisingly, passenger traffic at Miami International Airport is expected to grow from 33.8 million in 1999 to 39 million in 2015. Getting the millions of passengers efficiently to and from the airport, to and from the port, the beaches, homes and offices will demand a sophisticated and efficient transportation network. In south Florida’s case, this network will be the intermodal center. The MIC is a remarkable feat of modern design and planning, which began in 1993. It demonstrates the uniqueness of the MIC and its steering committee. The MIC already has won design awards and has been named a Project of National Significance by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Perhaps the greatest impact of the MIC will be on the planning of intermodal and other large projects in U.S. cities. The coordination required to meet the needs of more than a dozen stakeholders has created a blueprint for future projects. I have proposed the steering committee concept to other clients and for intermodal projects similar to the MIC. It is being discussed for the Ship Creek Intermodal Transportation Center in Anchorage, Alaska. There, the Alaska Railroad Corp. is the lead agency in developing an intermodal center adjacent to downtown Anchorage. Baltimore added to list
Earth Tech Inc. was recently selected to provide comprehensive planning services at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). One of the major projects under consideration at BWI is the development of a new intermodal complex (intermodal facility, hotels, corporate office campus and commercial retail center) that will link the remote rental car facility, Amtrak/MARC train station, Baltimore Central Light Rail, remote parking facilities, airport perimeter bicycle pathway and terminal facilities with each other as well as with the local community and businesses in the area. As part of its proposal, Earth Tech recommended to BWI the establishment of a steering committee to coordinate the efforts of the airport, Amtrak, Baltimore Central Light Rail, Maryland Department of Transportation and other local, state and federal agencies in defining the goals for the project and assist in its implementation.

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