The origin of the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) can be found in reports dating back to the early 1980s when county officials foresaw the need to create connectivity for the region as Miami-Dade began to attract big business and the city grew westward.
The city center, Downtown Miami, began to sprawl and grow into Brickell, Coral Gables and along the Palmetto Expressway (State Road 826) and Miami International Airport (MIA) became the heart of Miami. Officials developed preliminary strategies to decongest the roadways in and around the airport and in 1989, Miami-Dade County accepted the Miami International Airport Area Transportation Study recommending implementation of a multimodal transportation access facility. It was conceived as the means to link commuter rail (both heavy and light) and public and private bus service, thereby providing needed regional connectivity and improving access to MIA.
In the early 1990s, Miami boomed as a major player in the world marketplace. In 1993, Forbes Magazine placed Miami “at the crossroads of world commerce” and Time Magazine declared Miami as the “Capital of Latin America.” In 1994, Newsweek declared Miami “Business Capital of the Americas.” It was evident that transportation infrastructure was needed to support the growth that the area was experiencing.
In the early 1990s, county officials turned to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for a solution. At the same time, the landmark federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) passed and spurred local planners and decision-makers to undertake efforts to link the two local commuter rail systems, Tri-Rail and Metrorail, with the airport and to improve roadway access as well. FDOT implemented multimodal policies to encourage the use of other forms of transportation other than the single-occupant vehicle and adopted an intermodal approach and took advantage of innovative financing techniques offered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). As a result, FDOT commissioned the consulting firm Kaiser Engineers to perform a study which laid the groundwork for an intermodal center adjacent to MIA.
In the summer of 1993, the MIC Program was created when FDOT entered into partnership with six federal agencies of the USDOT. With this agreement, FDOT was able to take the lead and begin to plan, design and build the MIC.
In 1995, FDOT’s Major Investment Study (MIS)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the MIC was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Subsequently, the Miami-Dade County Commission adopted the MIS/DEIS, and the recommended development alternatives for all MIC Program components were included in the county’s official long range transportation plan on March 7, 1996.
FDOT completed the Preliminary Engineering and Final Environmental Impact Statement (PE/FEIS) process, and on May 5, 1998, the USDOT awarded a Record of Decision (ROD) granting location and design concept approval to the MIC.
Guiding such an ambitious endeavor was no easy feat. At this point, FDOT had already initiated a bid process in order to secure a consultant program manager for the MIC Program, and in May of 1998, Kaiser Engineers was awarded the contract. Kaiser and its subconsultants came to form a consulting management team to assist FDOT in the planning, design and implementation of the program.
One month later, on June 9, 1998, came passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the next six-year federal transportation bill after ISTEA, which continued the federal support of intermodal projects, such as the MIC Program. Connectivity between different modes of transportation became a more pressing need across the nation as urban area congestion continued to increase, including Miami.
As part of the TEA-21, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 1998 (TIFIA) was enacted as a federal credit program backed by leveraging federal funds to attract private investment in transportation infrastructure. Transportation projects of national or regional significance were encouraged to apply. Meeting the TIFIA’s eligibility criteria, FDOT applied for MIC Program assistance on August 2, 1999, and a week later briefed the Florida Congressional Delegation on its intent to secure funding for such a critical transportation improvement for the South Florida region. On September 27th of that same year, the MIC Program was selected by then USDOT Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater to receive up to $433 million in the form of two separate loans. The first loan for $269 million was closed on June 9, 2000. On July 3, 2006, FDOT prepaid the first loan in the amount of $17.1 million including accrued interest, replacing it with a more competitive internal loan through the State Transportation Trust Fund. The second loan of up to $170 million closed on April 29, 2005. An additional $100 million was requested and approved in August 2007, bringing the total for the second loan to $270 million. Securing TIFIA funds was vital in moving forward with construction of the Rental Car Center (RCC), the first major structure of the MIC Program.
After this accomplishment, starting in 2000 and ever since, a series of resolutions and memorandums of understanding between the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, FDOT and rental car companies have been enacted to secure and advance the development of the MIC Program. In that same year, AECOM, a unit of Tyco International, acquired Kaiser’s assets and became the program manager for the MIC Program. Today, AECOM continues to be the program manager for the MIC Program.
Recognizing the need for inter-agency cooperation and coordination, FDOT reached out to other local and regional transportation entities in 2000. FDOT entered into strategic partnerships with the now South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX).
In addition, a MIC Steering Committee was formed to overcome the challenge of coordinating costs, permitting, schedules and all the necessary factors related to the MIC program and help drive it forward. The MIC Steering Committee consists of a representative from each of the 12 participating stakeholders and associated agencies: FHWA, FDOT, Miami-Dade County, Miami-Dade Transit (MDT), Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD), Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), MDX, Miami-Dade Planning & Zoning, Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor, SFRTA, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
That same year, in 2001, FDOT began construction of the MIC roadways component and in June of 2003, utility and foundation work started for the RCC.
On August 10, 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), a six-year federal transportation bill was passed to continue funding of federal surface transportation programs and gave state and local transportation decision makers more flexibility for solving transportation problems in their communities. A continuation of ISTEA and TEA-21, the MIC Program was included in the legislation, the largest ever surface transportation investment by the federal government. In addition, Senator Mel Martinez and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart ensured FDOT the ability to use its $100 million commitment for the MIC-Earlington Heights Metrorail Extension Project, now called the MIA Metrorail station and Orange Line service, as matching funds for other Miami-Dade transit corridors. The achievement was marked with a media event at the MIC Field Office.
On May 16, 2008, a ceremony marking the opening of Le Jeune Road and the MIC-MIA Interchange was held. Included in the ribbon cutting were Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and State Representative Luis Garcia. The ceremony marked the re-introduction of Le Jeune Road as a free-flowing north-south artery.
Construction work is almost completed. The various MIC roadway improvement projects have been finished. The RCC has been completed and opened for business on July 13, 2010, and the MIA Mover became operational on September 9, 2011. Metrorail and Metrobus service to MIA via the Miami Central Station began on July 28, 2012. Notice to Proceed (NTP) on construction of the Miami Central Station was received on May 18, 2011. The official groundbreaking followed on September 27, 2011, and it is anticipated to open in early 2014.