The Works

French Firm Makes Streetcar Offer to Push Miami Light Rail Along

Plus Turkey gets ready to connect central Istanbul with its huge new airport, and more in our weekly New Starts.

Alstom has offered to front the estimated $148 million it would cost to build a five-mile-long wireless streetcar in Miami Beach. (Photo by Thelmadatter)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Manufacturer Offers to Jump-Start Light Rail Across Biscayne Bay
A major French manufacturer of rail transport equipment and systems is dangling a carrot in front of Miami Beach officials in hopes of advancing a long-discussed but still-planned project to connect downtown Miami with Miami Beach with a light-rail line across Biscayne Bay.

According to a news report in the Miami Herald, Alstom is proposing to build a five-mile-long wireless streetcar line along Washington Avenue in Miami Beach from Fifth Street to the city’s convention center. The proposal would have Alstom fronting the estimated $148 million it would cost to build the line and operating it under contract to the city for up to 35 years. The line would connect with the planned “Bay Link” light-rail line that would run from Miami’s Government Center to Miami Beach via the MacArthur Causeway.

The Alstom loan would be paid back from tax revenues, probably including proceeds from a one-half-cent sales tax for transit improvements approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002.

According to the report, the proposal dovetails with local officials’ efforts to use public-private partnerships, or P3s, to finance construction of the line and other proposed transit facilities. As officials in both Miami-Dade and Miami Beach would like the line to be run by a single contractor using the same equipment and technology for the entire route, Alstom’s offer would give it a leg up in bidding for the rest of the Bay Link route.

Miami Beach officials, however, are recommending that Alstom’s offer be rejected because it gives the city too little time to consider competing bids from other suppliers. Alstom has proposed an October 22nd deadline for bids from potential builder-operators. But Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he still wants the city to issue a formal request for proposals along the lines of Alstom’s offer. The French firm is a minority partner in the Greater Miami Tramlink Partners consortium, which would construct and operate the line.

Alstom is also lobbying Miami-Dade officials to enter a similar arrangement to design, build, operate and maintain a light-rail line on the mainland side of the bay; the head of a Coral Gables public relations firm that had been handling Alstom’s lobbying effort until late last year told the Herald the presumption on Alstom’s part is that the county would step in to fund the construction of the link across the bay.

Alstom is aggressively promoting its wireless streetcar technology, in which cars draw power from a strip embedded in the pavement that is energized only when a car passes over it. The Justice Department slapped a $772 million fine on the firm earlier this year in connection with alleged bribes the company made while pursuing light-rail projects in the Bahamas, Egypt, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Japan to Bankroll Manila Commuter Rail Line
Japanese and Philippine government officials, meeting at an Asia Pacific regional conference in Kuala Lumpur, have sealed a deal whereby Japan will loan the Philippines 240 billion yen ($2 billion U.S.) to build a new commuter rail line connecting Manila with a neighboring province.

A story in the Bangkok Post quotes Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose as saying the loan is the largest ever for a single development project in his country. It will be used to pay for the construction of Phase 1 of the North-South Commuter Rail Project, a 36.7-km (22.9-mile) narrow-gauge elevated regional rail line connecting Malolos City in Bulacan province with central Manila.

Japanese Senior Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi announced the loan after meeting with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in a side meeting during the regional meetings in the Malaysian capital last Wednesday.

Istanbul Prepares to Build Subway to New Third Airport
Construction is already underway on a new third airport for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. Next year, the Turkish government will solicit bids to build a new metro line to serve that airport, the Daily Sabah reports.

Istanbul Metro’s Gayrettepe station

The Turkish government has already selected a contractor to do the preliminary studies and planning for the new line, which will run to the airport from Gayrettepe station on Metro Line 2. When opened for service, trains will make the 33-km (20.6-mile) run to the airport in 26 minutes.

According to the report, the planning studies should be finished in about a year, at which point bids for the line’s construction will be solicited.

Minister of Transportation and Communication Feridun Bilgin told the paper that when completed, the new metro line will make it easy for Istanbul residents from all over the area to reach the airport.

The first phase of the new airport should open in 2018 with one terminal and two runways. When all four phases are complete, the airport will be the largest in the world, with four terminals connected by an internal railway capable of handling 150 million passengers annually. In addition to the new metro line, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication is building several multi-lane highways to serve the airport.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendinglight railsubwaysairports

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