On March 5th 2019, Steve Abrams, Executive Director of the South Florida Regional Transit Authority (SFRTA) gave a presentation to the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations. Mr. Abrams is our former Boca Raton Mayor and has served as our former Palm Beach County Commissioner for District 4.
How time flies. It was 30 years ago this March when Abrams was elected to Boca Raton City Council where he served 8 years. Last year he resigned as the Chairman of the SFRTA to enter into the search process for the Executive Director position and was also term limited on his District 4 County seat. After a national search with many qualified applicants the Board selected Abrams as Executive Director of SFRTA. The timing also coincides also with Tri Rail celebrating a 30-year anniversary.
Tri Rail Present and Future
Abrams, a firm believer in public transportation and an avid Tri Rail rider explained to residents that Tri Rail transported over 92 million people which is the equivalent of 1 lane of traffic on I-95. The railroad service is designed to transport over 15,000 students and workers every week day. It carries people from as far north as Mangonia Park in West Palm Beach and south to Miami.
He pointed out the major reason he was brought on board was to tighten their belt on finances. Tri Rail has no taxing authority and its financiers are the 3 counties and the State. Because they have fixed costs and legal demands for structural improvements they are running a significant deficit. One significant cost is the mandate for implementing positive train control systems for public safety on its 72 miles of track.
Tri Rail is also working on 4 more stops from Magnolia Park to get to Jupiter. Presently, Tri Rail ends at Magnolia Park and needs to cross over to FEC tracks which will be another significant costs.
First, Abrams pointed out that the second station that was planned at Glades and Military is on permanent hold. This is still part of Tri Rail’s goals of Planned Mobility and Transit Oriented strategies. In order to proceed, it must be approved by the Boca Raton City Council. He is referring to the Midtown project where the developer is suing the city for nearly $140 million. The rezoning they want is to convert what is now zoned commercial to allow Crocker Partners and other developers to place a mixed use project with up to 2,500 residential units on the property.
At the existing Yamato Station, there is 7.5 acres that TriRail has owned for years in which they had desired a developer to put a transit oriented district. At one point a developer came up with a plan to put in high density residential project there that he was completely opposed to. This project would have exceeded our zoning by 100 times. Although never approved, this event triggered a competitive proposal from others and up until several months ago they never had the right proposal.
Presently, the Governing Board has selected a Medical Headquarters for an Orthopedic Surgery Center along with restaurants. This project is not a workforce housing project but ultimately Boca Raton City Council will be the ones who decide what goes on the property. Currently residential is planned at the site. He feels that the surgery center would draw patients from all over South Florida and many would be using Tri Rail. Tri Rail is also ADA compliant. Once City council approves what goes there, it will go back to the Board.
Boca Raton is a Role Model for TriRail
Abrams mentioned that Boca Raton station is better than any other station. Boca Raton provides connectivity to our downtown and FAU. Workers and students have easy access to the work place with commuter connection buses. This provides benefits to not only residents but companies in Boca Raton as it gives employers more opportunities to choose their workers.
There is no doubt that Boca Raton is important to Tri Rail but also Tri Rail is important to Boca Raton.
Steve Abrams has supported our community for 30 years and I would personally like to thank him for his service to our community.
Thank you, Mr. Steve Abrams.