MIAMI BEACH LINE
A Brightline-friendly Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway
FIRST STAGE: FREIGHT TO ISLAND GRADE 2.35 MILES, PASSENGER 1.6 MILES
(MIAMI BEACH LINE: 5.95 MILES)
As with the recent monorail proposal, this one keeps generally to the theme of Miami-Dade's Beach Corridor SMART Project. The Miami Beach Line would provide a two-track connection to the Florida East Coast Railroad for seamless access by way of a Miami Central "Annex" passenger station located east of the station proper. At its eastern end the proposed Annex incorporates access, protected from the elements, to a new MetroMover station, and a landscaped, elevated walkway running across Biscayne Boulevard to the American Airlines Arena property. Biscayne Boulevard finds the lowest top-of-rail elevation along the initial stage, from which the line ascends going east to a fixed span with top-of-rail approximately 66' above the datum plane as drawn, with grades on either side of about 2.29 percent.
The Port of Miami Station serving the Miami Cruise Terminal contemplates a station platform 3750 feet long, allowing direct passenger access to terminals, with two-way conveyor belt people movers along the platform and elsewhere (not shown) for complete terminal access. Freight turnouts at the platform's east end converge at center of the 60-foot-on-center passenger alignment and continue east on a more-or-less level plane. As the outside passenger tracks descend to the tunnel, the inside freight tracks cross over the outbound passenger track near the tunnel entrance. High-capacity freight access thus afforded would serve more effectively than any other possible solution - to mitigate the extreme congestion resulting from truck traffic experienced on the island.
The 3.57-mile double-bore tunnel extension contemplates two further passenger stations, both shown as being quite long to allow seamless service from all points served by the the Florida East Coat Line, and possible layover storage on a limited basis. Full or partial platform barriers and other movable dividers are envisioned at the South Beach station in Miami Beach, and at Port of Miami, to enable this, as well as the directing of passengers on foot when shorter trains are used. The City Center terminal station located at the Miami Beach Convention Center would necessarily be configured with two center-running tracks only, though ample side platforms are possible, owing to restrictions of space. Tunneling is assumed as cut-and-cover beyond the South Beach station, and might be configured as a single cut with steel center supports and structure.
CONNECTIONS: FLORIDA EAST COAST RWY-MIAMI CENTRAL-ANNEX (west at top)
The Annex Main Entrance across the street from Miami Central is represented by lines - white: curbline, green: building line, white: long marquee, green: Annex. The Annex building is shown as being concentric with the added tracks and the existing east curbline of N.W. First Avenue. Passengers would enter from N.W. First Street to a broad lobby with south-facing glass wall looking onto the treed, park-like area shown. (The Eighties Era AT&T building would have to go, but not the smaller building to the north necessarily.) Starting near the crossover configuration of tracks (white) a broad stair and conveyances would rise to a mezzanine level running above the street - in this case N. Miami Avenue - giving access by way of further stairs and conveyances to the single Annex platform forty feet wide. Public access to the mezzanine is intended only for getting to the platform and would be available only near the three streets the station crosses.
The main public passenger area of the Annex would be at ground level amidst glass walls facing an intimate walled garden on either side. The vertically compact main entrance lobby might be surmounted by office space in a concentric balconies-and-hanging-gardens formation incorporating the tracks, and this space might act as replacement for space lost in one of the existing Miami Central buildings should certain modifications contemplated here be found desirable. The drawing shows the two easternmost tracks of Miami Central Station. Two of the station's three approach tracks are connected to the Annex configuration to enable two-way traffic with a minimum of directional conflict. This would involve an additional turnout from the center approach track, which would require foundational support from below having lateral stability characteristics compatible with the existing track structures. The same is true of the new outside connecting track running off the approach. There doesn't appear to be any obstruction that would prevent the new additions.
In the interest of maximum versatility, direct connections are shown from the Annex to the easternmost station tracks of Miami Central Station, with the aim, optimally, of doubling platform track capacity available to serve the new line and FEC operating in tandem. While this is likely doable with the easternmost track at Miami Central the second track presents formidable problems. Five vertical supports are shown in red that hold up one side of a four-story building which rises above the tracks. It might be that new support segments compatible with the 2nd-track connection could be readily moved into place in a single operation, with the obstructive ones then sawed out and removed. The connection would enable platform track(s) running from point-of-switch 1225' to the rear of the station, by extending them though the southernmost station building located north of N.W. 3rd Street for some 125 feet - which would involve new foundational supports that would obstruct the usable space of the building - then over N.W. 3rd Street to the lot beyond, providing for convenient access to the Government Center Station.
ANNEX VERTICAL ALIGNMENT
With an aim to make the crossing of Biscayne Boulevard by bridge as low and unintrusive as possible, and owing to the height of Miami Central as built (assumed here as 55' above the datum plane at top-of-rail) a grade is initiated as close as possible to the turnouts running off the existing tracks. Going by the shortest of the connecting tracks having also the shortest lateral radius of the four (300') the result is a difference between the elevation of Miami Central and that at Biscayne Boulevard of 30 feet - this spread over a distance of 2120' - or a grade of 1.415%. Stations with grades are a common occurrence and the post-war iteration of the Toowoomba Grade in Australia had a platform with a 5% grade. The prohibition of grades in stations is largely a hangover from the Age of Steam when mountain divisions were sometimes designed to increase the ruling grade in order to achieve a flat spot at a station. Americans with Disabilities laws have provision for excepting requirements that are not "practicably possible" in certain circumstances, and really the grade would barely be noticeable. Of course there is broad possibility for other grading schemes here, and the two tracks leading off the station approach are quite a bit longer.
Moving the MetroMover guideways about 100 feet to the east would enable the necessary vertical realignment while minimizing closures. Also, given the grade described above the station would be about a foot and a half lower there. The platform is configured to accept four-car trains, and being larger than the old one would help to mitigate any additional crowding that might result from having more convenient access to the American Airlines Arena. All vertical curves are shown as being at least 100 feet long and the grades described are well within the stated capabilities of the MetroMover. It is assumed the points of convergence with the old alignment are level and 22.5' off the ground (which is somewhat unlikely) according to Google Earth satellite-generated figures, which are more detailed than the US Geodetic Survey. It may be the elevated line would be less intrusive overall in it's new location, and some areas beneath it could be used for nicely planned retail or other uses at sacrifice of a few parking spaces. If need be, low-rise multi-level garage space could be made to abut the rear sides of the retail.
CROSSING BISCAYNE BOULEVARD
The glassed-in, mechanistic deco-moderne Freedom Tower Annex Entrance would take loosely after 20th Century railroad architecture. The track geometry is skewed to veer slightly away from the Freedom Tower and should have been slightly more so, since the Freedom Tower stair to the elevated walkway was an afterthought, while yet being an indispensable part of the design - thought up a couple years ago and then forgotten. The boulevard bridge as shown is about 26' wide while having over three feet of hanging gardens located in planters along its south side. It may be the freight interests would be inclined to insist on having two continuous tracks, but the single track would function nicely as a station crossover without the bulky infrastructure, allowing the ramp instead. While the track dips slightly, the ramp is level and generally 2.5' above the level of the track. The single-track segment is about 250' long.
Showing means by which freight tracks might be brought to island grade. The single at-grade freight track thus reached is a simplification but lines up with the existing movable span at left in open position. Visible artifacts indicate there was large-capacity multiple trackage at one time. The 3500 feet or so of at-grade trackage through Downtown Miami is really no longer practicable.
Inasmuch as Norwegian Cruise Lines' new parking garage is of standard-type construction save the decorative facade, the project of running people mover access through there would not be physically complicated. Convenient access to the farther terminal would be dependent on that.
The deep segment of the tunnel alignment between the two red markers is shown as having an elevation of -105'. The central radius of the island curve is 2500' - with the sixty-foot spacing perhaps arbitrarily continued east from the Port of Miami platform. The broadest curve possible at Miami Beach would have a radius of about 1125 feet, with minimal spiraling. As shown, approximately 60 degrees of the overall central angle of 80 degrees is given over to a simple curve, with that being offset from the tangents by 1/100 of its radius or 11.25'. It might be that a tighter radius with more extreme spiraling or a single tube would allow for quicker transit through this curve still likely the quickest way anyone will ever get from Miami Beach to the cruise terminals.
With the simple curve being about 1175 feet long, the 487.5-foot spiral segments run more or less parallel to it for 2/5 of their length, or about 195' each. The configuration is based more on the exigencies of the Google Earth circle tool than anything else, with its nodes spaced five degrees apart. In this case the circles are doubled up resulting in nodes 2.5° apart, or chords of about 97.5 feet measured on the center line between the tubes. In the interest of getting a quick ride it was decided to complicate it by pushing the vertical curve in Miami Beach north substantially off the low lying 80° curve, though it still overlaps with one of the spirals for about 150'. This results in a ruling grade of 3.75% described in fraction form at the top of the picture. The grade starting at South Beach Station is significantly less severe.
CITY CENTER STATION
The City Center station would stimulate both commercial and residential interests besides offering a speedy high-capacity connection from downtown - direct to the convention center. By getting hoards of passengers and diesel bus traffic off the street, underground connections would restore local serenity and stimulate new development, leaving the street free for strolling visitors, locals and shoppers. The station is placed to serve the Lincoln Road Mall, and during off hours with short trains, they could be made to make two stops.
Bruce W. Hain Queens, N.Y.
RAIL-NYC-ACCESS.COM September 2019
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