Broward commissioners to decide on Fort Lauderdale's streetcar project

After budget issues, support for the Wave may have finally dried up

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Electric street cars have been popping up all over the United States and when the federal government committed nearly $90 million to Fort Lauderdale it seemed as if the South Florida city would be next.

When bids came back $100 million over an already expanded budget, however, the Florida Department of Transportation was asked to revise the scope of the project.

Now, the Broward County Commission will decide Tuesday whether the project, called the Wave, will move forward after having been discussed for almost 15 years.

The Florida Department of Transportation needs the commission's approval before it can start work on the Wave.

But that approval is far from a sure thing as support for the project has waned in recent months. Both of Fort Lauderdale's mayoral candidates oppose the Wave.

"We've got to start a smart solution to traffic and gridlock, and this is one piece of it," said Alan Hooper, chairman of Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Development Authority, which supports the project.

Funding issues aren't the only challenges facing the Wave.

Opponents have questioned the everything from the technology used to the planned 2.8-mile route along Andrews Avenue, and the most pressing issue may be claims that the Wave will sink.

Retired engineer Dane Hancock questioned whether the soil in Fort Lauderdale can accommodate the streetcar project.

"A year ago this month, they did a very extensive soils report one of the best I've seen in my 52 years, and it shows our South Florida soil will not support the weight of the Wave. It's going to sink," Hancock said.

Hooper said Hancock's concerns are unfounded.

"Truth is, the soil is holding up 25 30-story buildings. I don't think two tracks and a train are going to be affected by the soil," Hooper said.

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