Tunnel or bridge? Fort Lauderdale and Broward at odds

Both agree that a transportation link is needed, but cost is a factor

Fort Lauderdale leaders want a tunnel, not a bridge cutting through their city. Broward County leaders say a cost-effective solution to transportation woes needs to be determined to link Miami to Palm Beach.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward leaders say a commuter rail connection is needed to link the tri-county area from Miami to Palm Beach to reduce traffic.

But the New River is in the way, and Fort Lauderdale leaders have made clear they want a tunnel — not a rail bridge cutting right through their city.

County leaders say it would be a shame if expanding the rail line fell apart because of finances and not being able to agree.

“We’re going to make that connection work one way or another,” said Broward Vice Mayor Lamar Fisher. “The key is going to be funding — whether we can get state and we can get federal funding at this particular time for whatever project it is.”

“I agree with [the city],” Broward Commissioner Steve Geller added. “I just don’t know if the tunnel is affordable.”

County leaders are now having their say after Fort Lauderdale city leaders voted against the bridge proposals made by the Florida Department of Transportation to handle the growth.

“It will cut through neighborhoods,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said of a bridge. “Buildings will have to be torn down. Certain neighborhoods, their homes would be obliterated.”

The city agrees commuter rail is the way of the future and the counties must connect in the fastest way possible.

But it’ll take a combination of federal, state and local dollars to make happen. A bridge would cost roughly $500 million. A train tunnel is upwards of $2 billion.

County commissioners are crunching the numbers and looking at plans ahead of their vote on the issue in February.

“I mean, I know that there’s way that they can do this in an aesthetically pleasing way,” Broward Mayor Michael Udine said. “But I want to look at all the information as we move forward.”

Added Geller: “If the city is that concerned, we may need to ask the city to be contributing more toward paying for a tunnel as opposed to expecting the county to be doing most or all of the local share for that.”

About the Author:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.