On Feb. 1, Railway Age reported that Steven L. Abrams had resigned as executive director of Tri-Rail, South Florida’s regional passenger railroad, over issues with extended station access. Central Miami from Downtown Brightline. A month later, Abrams is still at work and it looks like things are looking up.
The age of the railway Abrams interviewed on March 4. Two of the issues that have delayed access to the city may soon be fixed, and Tri-Rail and Brightline are working on the other.
When the MiamiCentral station was under construction in 2015, the company that became Brightline was still called All Aboard Florida (AAF). Miami’s downtown station would feature raised platforms with three tracks for AAF/Brightline (a side platform for one track and an island platform for the other two) and two tracks with side platforms for Tri-Rail. It was planned at the time that Tri-Rail would serve the station in 2017, but that hope has faded and the plan is now more than five years behind schedule.
Three issues have come to light lately: insufficient clearance between the platform and the boarding steps protruding from the car bodies, the underside of the ladders of Brookville-built locomotives scraping the platform, and whether the tracks built on a slope from ground level to elevated platform level can support the weight of Tri-Rail trains. Taking the issues one at a time, Abrams said The age of the railway that two of them should soon be resolved, and expressed the hope that the other would be remedied shortly thereafter.
The first obstacle to make the news concerned the steps taken by travelers to get on or off the trains. Most Tri-Rail stations have low platforms, and ambulant passengers must climb two steps to get up and down these two steps to get down. The middle step of each door (between the platform and the floor of the car) is attached to the outside and protrudes from it. For level boarding, there is a cantilever cantilever at the edge of the platforms at MiamiCentral that sits above these steps when the train is in the station. There is not enough space between the bottom of the platform overhang and the top of the steps. Abrams said The age of the railway“We always knew we had to adjust the steps for level boarding, and we ordered parts.” He also said Brightline mobilized workers to scrape excess concrete from the underside of the platforms to make room for the necessary clearance.
There is also the issue of load capacities on the segment of track leading from ground level to elevated platforms. There were concerns that the structure could not support Tri-Rail trains on this segment, but Abrams said efforts to overcome the load capacity hurdle are “90% there”. He said Brightline provided data to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and that FDOT reviewed Brightline’s design standards and declared the segment safe. Abrams added that FDOT was working internally and with consultants, and hopes to have the official decision soon.
The third problem concerns Tri-Rail’s new locomotives: Brookville Equipment Corp’s BL36PH units. Those currently in service meet Tier 3 emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Tri-Rail plans to order more in the future that will meet the stricter Tier 4 standards. There is a problem with the way new units were tested in 2013-2015, when they were delivered. The data at the time was based on static measurements, rather than measuring the profile of the units as they moved, so clearances in the station may not have been measured correctly. The design is based on Amtrak’s envelope, and Abrams mentioned the difficulty that the ladder, which crew members use to climb up or down from the cabin, scrapes the top of the platform. The current hope is that shaving off some of the concrete on top of the platforms in the right places will also fix this issue, but the actual fix is yet to be determined. For example, an uneven platform might allow sufficient clearance for the ladder where the unit was measured, but a static measurement would not reveal high points on the platform that would not allow not enough clearance. Tri-Rail also said the ladders themselves are subject to safety rules, which prevent the railroad from unilaterally modifying them.
The age of the railway checked with Brookville and was advised that Tri-Rail had not contacted Brookville regarding the units in question or entered into a contract with the company to remedy any difficulties. This may not be necessary, as it could be enough to scratch the high points of the platforms.
Abrams also said Brightline cooperated to resolve these issues so that Tri-Rail could begin serving downtown Miami.
Tri-Rail operates on the historic Seaboard Railroad, several miles west (inland) of the historic Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) alignment that runs through Miami and other areas of downtown. city, and which Brightline uses. Currently, Metro Rail, the elevated line operated by Miami-Dade Transit, runs between Tri-Rail and Downtown Miami. There is a transfer station in Hialeah on 79th Street, two stops north of the Tri-Rail South Terminal at Miami International Airport.
Plans are to run some Tri-Rail trains on the IRIS Connector, a stretch of track just over four miles long on an east-west alignment, and on the historic FEC track now used by Brightline to access Miami Central Station. Southbound Tri-Rail trains would stop at the transfer station and turn left on the IRIS connector to continue to the FEC line and onto Miami.
It’s been a long wait, but Abrams hopes Tri-Rail will arrive in downtown Miami relatively soon. Will Miami service begin before the end of 2022? Abrams hopes so. Things are looking up at Tri-Rail, and the score looks like two down and one to go; at least that’s what it should be soon.