Passenger Rail Coming to Downtown Fort Lauderdale and Its Soon-to-Be-Obsolete Bridge

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As long as we're talking ferries and bikes, we may as well point your attention to another exciting mode of alternative transportation that's making its way to South Florida's urban centers.

That's right -- the people who dream up such things say that passenger rail is on its way. That means the FEC tracks, which run along the coastal ridge parallel to the beach, could see a lot more traffic... and the railroad drawbridge that crosses the New River in Fort Lauderdale is sure to be a choking point.

Two plans are in the works to bring passenger service to the FEC tracks.

The first, a proposal by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Tri-Rail service along the I-95 corridor, would start running commuter trains along the existing FEC track from Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano south to Miami.

The second is a proposal by FDOT and Amtrak to run Amtrak service along the FEC tracks, from Miami all the way north to Jacksonville, by 2015, as the Herald reports.

The state is prepared to pony up a large chunk of the projected $250 million needed for that second project. Nobody tell Rick Scott and ruin his birthday

But along with numerous other improvements that will be necessary, the state and rail carriers will have to do something about that pesky bridge in Fort Lauderdale over the New River. Currently, it sits open for most of the day to allow boat traffic to pass and is lowered seven or eight times a day. The Amtrak proposal wouldn't require a lot more closings at first: Only one roundtrip per day is planned for the time being. But what about Tri-Rail service?

When we called the SFRTA office last month, they weren't aware of any plans to deal with the bridge bottleneck. It seems things haven't advanced much from a year ago, when the Sun-Sentinel pondered the possibilities of a new crossing: either a huge span that flies over downtown or -- scrap the bridge -- another expensive tunnel.

Either way, it'll change the landscape of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Maybe for the better.

Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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