AVENTURA, Fla. – After a contentious vote that failed before it passed, Miami-Dade County will get its second Virgin-owned Brightline train station in one of the most congested areas of northeast Miami-Dade County.
Commissioners passed the land swap and development deal, which will pay Brightline $76 million to build the station near its tracks west of the Aventura Mall and operate the commuter-rail service.
The motion had failed before a component of affordable housing was added to the development plans, and then it passed in a revote. The approval creates the first tangible step in the master transportation plan the county has been working on for decades.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners the money would not hinder any other county transportation plans, and would likely create more revenue through real estate development.
"If you allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, we'll never do anything in this county," Gimenez said.
Commissioners had concerns about potential ridership numbers, ticket affordability and potential subsidies. Some wondered whether the service would function as a true commuter rail that people would choose over their cars.
"It’s a social service we provide. It's just how much money do we want to throw into it?" Commissioner Joe Martinez asked, walking out before the final vote.
"At best, it's privatized transit for upper-middle class," Commissioner Xavier Suarez said, who along with Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, were the only two "no" votes.
"It turned out to be more complicated," Suarez said.
Commissioner Esteban Bovo, a longtime supporter of commuter rail, is on board.
"We think giving folks an option, a real option, to get into downtown Miami from there can be a game changer," Bovo said.
Brightine's president and a lineup of lobbyists were at the meeting touting benefits of the public-private partnership.
"This is a phenomenal opportunity the county is taking advantage of to plug into our infrastructure," Brightline President Patrick Goddard said.
The Aventura station is scheduled to be open for ridership in October 2020.