Oops! Amtrak Trains Don't Fit in Miami's $2 Billion Train Station

The Miami Intermodal Center opened five years ago, but is still unable to service Amtrak trains.


Scott Jones/

When the $2 billion Miami Intermodal Center (MIC) started construction in 2011, the plan was to have its central station serviced by long-distance Amtrak trains.

Construction finished in 2013 and while three different rail services currently operate at the station, Amtrak is nowhere to be found. The reason? The platform built for Amtrak is 200 feet too short for Amtrak's long-distance trains.

The problem was first discovered shortly after construction began, but who exactly is to blame for the multi-million-dollar mishap, or what is to be done about it now, remain open questions.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) claims that it was only informed of the platform length issue months after construction started. Amtrak insists that it kept FDOT fully informed of its needs throughout the pre-construction design and review stage.

Whoever is at fault, the problem is not easily remedied. Extending the platform an additional 200 feet would put it smack dab in the middle of the city's bustling 25th Street. In other words, extending the platform wold mean new construction in and around a busy thoroughfare.

FDOT initially considered this solution but has since rejected it. Instead, transportation planners have kicked around the idea of just having Amtrak trains temporarily jut out into traffic while they service the station.

An Amtrak spokesperson told the real estate blog The Next Miami that it is still in discussions about serving the MIC, but that it has no immediate plans to do so.

The Miami Herald listed the cost of the central train station—referred to as the "crown jewel" of the whole MIC complex—at some $88 million. Even on a $2 billion project, which also includes a massive rental car facility and bus station, that is not chump change.

FDOT planners realized this themselves. A 2008 presentation outlaying financial risks for the project ranked spending on Amtrak "high cost risk" given the money required and the uncertainly at the time about whether Amtrak would actually run trains to the station.

Of course, even if the platform did function as intended, it would still not be a win for taxpayers. The kind of long distance trains Amtrak was planning on running to the MIC are notorious money losers that are in large part responsible for the service's $227 million losses last year.

President Trump's latest budget proposal called for ending subsidies for Amtrak's long-distance service, but Congress chose not to make the cut.

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  1. Next stop Miami. Only the doors on the first four cars will open. Please move forward if you are not in the first four cars.

    1. This actually exists in NYC. At some point in the early 20th century every single station was lengthened but one or two couldn’t be. One of them was completely rebuilt to fit full-length trains, opened in 2012, was completely destroyed by Sandy in 2017, and was completely rebuilt again. The other one is up in Harlem and still too short.

      1. WTF? 2012 2009 and 2017 2012

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      2. I hear it on the LIRR and NJT frequently.

      3. Chicago has several Metra stations like River Forest that aren’t as long as the trains, but the stations are VERY old and could not practically be lengthened. Like Vic said, be on the East 5 cars.

    2. This actually does seem like the best option, but it would require shutting down an entire street for the entire time the train is at the station, and judging by Google maps, there is no easy detour.

      1. I’m not even going to ask why they designed a major train station so that the trains have to cross a street to enter the station. That is not something I think I’ve ever seen in a city with more than a few hundred people.

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  2. (insert joke with the punch line “gets off in Miami.”)

  3. And I want to put these guys in charge of my healthcare…why?

    1. Why would transportation/traffic engineers in florida be involved with healthcare?

      What you should be worried about are the slimeball politicians in D.C. that have wasted the $5 trillion surplus of social security taxes collected (both SS-FICA for monthly pension and SS-HI for medicare) since its inception and now refer to it as an “entitlement” instead of a supplemental retirement/health insurance plans we’ve all paid into all our working lives. They cut taxes then run up annual multi-trillion dollar deficits that they borrow from other countries.

  4. Can’t they just park the train vertically?

    1. Just winch the cars up vertically for loading and unloading and put a loop-de-loop around 25th Ave. and the station would “pay for itself”.

    2. Route the train track in a roller coaster style giant elevated turn and pair it with a second roller coaster that matches velocity for a couple hundred feet.

      Heck, it makes me almost want to ride a train, properly sanitized and cleared of all deplorables of course.

  5. Choo-choos: the transportation of the future! (if you’re living in the 18th century)

    1. Railroad trains have run on electricity for more than 50 years. Their diesel engines spin turbines that generate electricity to turn the motors which drive the wheels. They could all run on renewable biodiesel if the politicians supported our farmers and subsidized solar powered micro-refineries across the country instead of being in the pockets of petro-company executives… you could build 100 such refineries in every state for less than 1/20 of 1% of our tax dollars wasted on the war in Iraq.

      1. Wow, that’s so cheap it could be paid for by the people who actually use the train!

    2. Actually, rail systems are more efficient than trucks, don’t have to put wear and tear on our already crumbling road systems, could take traffic off those crowded roadways, etc. But government meddling managed to destroy the railroads’ profitability by subsidizing all the competing modes. We’d be so much better off with more modularized freight handling (there were systems designed decades ago, but by then government subsidies to truck & air infrastructure ruined the railroads’ ability to compete). So now we’re stuck with an infrastructure that can never keep up, and meanwhile local governments tear up remaining rail lines so a handful of snowflakes can ride their bicycles away from the roads overcrowded with the truck freight that properly should be riding on the rails.

      Government intervention *broke* a critical system, and somehow they believe the same government can somehow shore it back up.

      1. Not sure where you are getting your info but the US has an unrivaled freight rail system. Unlike Europe that moves much of it’s freight via trucks we move ours via rail. As for subsidies passenger rail gets ridiculous amount per passenger mile compared to roads.

  6. Just another example of our crumbling infrastructure. Clearly we need to spend more.

  7. Have you ever tried to book a Amtrak vacation? I’d like to take my wife on a trip, Dallas to Denver and back on the choo choo, it seems romantic. I get on their joke of a website and dick around for a couple hours trying to figure out how to book a trip. When it said I have to take a bus connection somewhere in Illinois I finally gave up in frustration.

    1. Unless you’re on the east coast Amtrak takes ridiculously long to get anywhere. If you want to spend your vacation on the train, Amtrak is great though.

      1. ^^ this

      2. Why should I have to pay for someone else’s vacation or for the choo-choo nuts’ hobby?

      3. I certainly agree. Last year, the wife and I rode Amtrak from Dallas to LA. First (and last) time on Amtrak. Mediocre meals, rough ride and similar comfort level to a crowded airliner flying in moderate turbulence, but lasting much longer. Forget Amtrak, I’ll fly any day. European trains are a far different thing, much more practical for the relatively short distances there, more efficiently run as well.

    2. Unless you’re on the east coast Amtrak takes ridiculously long to get anywhere. If you want to spend your vacation on the train, Amtrak is great though.

      1. Twice as long as necessary!

    3. Many, many years ago (around 2002) I was living in CT and was planning on going home to visit my parents. So I said, hey, its a long trip, I’ve never taken a train, let’s see what that was about.

      2.5 days of travel (only about a day less than driving) – but at a price between the cost of driving (with hotels) and an airline ticket (which would have only been a few hours of traveling.

      *If* I sat in a seat the whole 60 hours.

      Sleeper service? Like $1500 bucks man. And I’d still have had to get up in the middle of the night to swap trains – with a delay between leaving one and getting on the other.

      Screw that.

      1. Soviet service at Swiss prices…

      2. My best friend always dreamed of taking the Empire Builder, and when he got married they decided to spend their honeymoon doing just that.

        The train broke down between towns out in North Dakota and they spent 26 hours not moving. I remember him describing it as hellish but don’t remember why. Perhaps the AC doesn’t work when the engines aren’t running?

        He was offered a bus to Seattle but declined, since the whole point was to take the train.

        They finally got going again but then hit a track problem just as they hit Washington state, and again they were stuck with no guarantee of timely progress. He declined their offer of a bus ride, rented a car, and vacationed in the way that god intended.

    4. Trust me, it’s not romantic.

      I took the “Starlight Express” down the West coast. We were down in a mountain valley during the advertised sunset over the ocean. For large periods of time we were traveling at a brisk trot, you could literally have gotten out for a stroll and gotten back in. Saw the back ends of a lot of factories. This I found interesting, being an engineer. My (Now ex) wife was less thrilled.

      And the ride was so rough she got tennis elbow from bouncing back and forth between the walls.

      All in all, I calculated that we could have rented a nice convertible, driven down the coast to see all the views, stayed in four star hotels and eaten at the best restaurants, and beaten the train’s time for less money.

      1. No worries, we are taking a cruise instead.

    5. Necron, I take Amtrak from DC to Montana occasionally. Nice way to see the USA. Even Pittsburgh looks good from a sleeper car. Once you get on the Empire Builder and leave Chicago the views are just phenomenal. Not good if you have to be there same day, but if you can spare the time it is a very civilized way to travel.
      The website is kind of wonky, but not that bad. You book a coach ticket then you book the sleeper part of top of that. The food is included in the sleeper price. The diner is good not great.

  8. Outstanding example of good project management. They’re only planning for Amtrak’s demise during Trump’s second term and the onset of self-driving vehicles.

  9. Outstanding example of good project management. They’re only planning for Amtrak’s demise during Trump’s second term and the onset of self-driving vehicles.

  10. Just as cars and airplanes are getting more fuel efficient and clean-burning every year, we’re still trying to bring back rail travel. It’s just odd.

    1. I think you misspelled “stupid”

  11. Our local school system, when building a new high school, made the gym building too small to accommodate a regulation sized basketball court. Short by about 8 feet. The varsity teams could play all their league games there – some older schools didn’t conform to the current standard dimensions – but they were not allowed to host tournaments or playoff games.

    Top men.

    1. What kills me is when a government-run institution, such as a school, holds meeting after meeting, hearing after hearing to get input from “stakeholders” about how the building should be and then they proceed to ignore all of it and build it according to the original plans anyway, and it’s all fucked up and inadequate like everyone at the meetings said.

  12. Out of curiosity, I looked into Amtrak for a trip between two major cities in the West/Midwest that are a 7.5 hr drive apart. It was ~24 hrs on the train and still had a total of 3 hrs of driving involved. Oh, and the train departed at 3am. Needless to say I drove.

    1. Yeah, but i bet your car wasn’t permeated with a lovely aroma of stale urine, like all Amtrak cars seem to be.

      Then again, maybe it was. I don’t know your life.

      1. “”Yeah, but i bet your car wasn’t permeated with a lovely aroma of stale urine, like all Amtrak cars seem to be.”‘

        How long has it been since you took Amtrak. I do it a few times a year, and that’s rarely the case. Unless a bathroom is in bad order. But I’m more often on the Acela. There regular trains have been getting better with nice new seats. At least the regular ones I’ve been on. (NYC to Boston)

        1. The last time was a couple of years ago. I took the Amtrak from Newport News to DC. The car smelled like urine.

      2. X, I ride Amtrak every year or so. Never smelled urine. Maybe it was your clothing?

        1. Maybe it was the east coast passengers. I never noticed anything like that on the Empire Builder.

    2. Yeah, Amtrak is strictly for the east coast and maybe the rust belt corridor.

  13. Melania or Ivanka? And why.

    1. Ivanka. Melania seems like her pillow-talk would be hella mean.

      1. What if I like that sort of thing?

    2. Ivanka. Melania’s too old to knock up.

  14. Maybe Elon Musk’s hyperloop will arrive in Miami to save the day-if it can go underwater..,

    1. And if taxpayers give him another 5-10 billion

  15. We have the best infrastructure, don’t we folks?

    1. Obviously, we need more infrastructure funding.

  16. Amtrak doesn’t make much sense except between NYC and DC. Even when they electrified it up to Boston to save the loco switching time, it saved maybe 20 minutes off a 4 hour trip between there and NYC. High speed rail won’t work anywhere without dedicated track.

    1. I can get from DC to NYC on one of those buses way quicker and cheaper.

    2. Amtrak from Boston to NYC takes about the same amount of time as flying, and is about the same cost. That is for someone like me that lives in the burbs. I’m just outside the Uber/Lyft zone so have to drive and park.

      1. True and that is the problem with passenger rail in the US. Really outside the NE corridor few people travel city center to city center. People don’t go from San Diego to LA to San fran for instance. They go El Cajon to Oxnard to Richmond. Unlike Europe and Asia which have large urban centers suround by very rural areas the US mostly has small city centers surrounded by dozens of suburbs. Something like only 1% of Americans travel city center to city center.

  17. It’s a sad commentary on the state of modern education when these “best and brightest” are stymied by a platform 200 feet too short for the train it was designed to fit. It’s like they’ve never even heard of Procrustes.

  18. Come on, Reason. This is hard work.

    That money isn’t going to waste itself.

  19. It would be nice actually to have a functioning ground-based long distance mass transit system.

    Too bad the one we have is run by morons.

    1. It would be nice actually to have a functioning ground-based long distance mass transit system.


      Oh, and we do – its called ‘Greyhound’.

      1. when amtrack fails they always call Greyhound. but who needs trains when you can fly

      2. Philly to Reading only $74.00 and nine hours. It’s less than a two hour drive.

  20. No one needs an Amtrak train that long.

  21. Wait, they did type something good about Trump? That he wanted to cut this?
    That can’t be write. Editor correct it quickly!

  22. Clearly the work of Top. Men.

  23. who exactly is to blame for the multi-million-dollar mishap, or what is to be done about it now, remain open questions.

    No one.

    Spend more taxpayer money on it.

    See, that wasn’t so hard!

  24. in the 60’s the county built a new hospital on a hill looking over the town, for helicopter reason. when finished they found all the doors were to small to get the gurneys through. so they abandoned that one and built another hospital on the next hill.

    in another more personal story I was offered the on site drafting job for a 16 story jail. Luckily i turned it down because all the beds were 2″ to short and they had to grind the concrete walls to make them fit.

    I don’t know why the simplest things to check go unchecked. Of course part of the problem is the engineers don’t talk to the architects and the architects won’t listen anyway.

    1. I don’t know why the simplest things to check go unchecked. Of course part of the problem is the engineers don’t talk to the architects and the architects won’t listen anyway.

      And neither of them has an Edit button.

      1. D’oh I misread the first sentence. Now I need an Edit button.

      2. And before the edit button there were erasers

  25. At least they didn’t do what France did. Made new trains a bit too wide for the space between the tracks and platforms at 1,300 stations, and a smidge too tall for some tunnels in Italy.

    1. and a smidge too tall for some tunnels in Italy.

      Why would a Frenchman go to Italy?

  26. The NYC subway once contracted with a Japanese company for replacement subway cars. Hundreds of millions of dollars later on the first day of operation they were pulled out of service when it was discovered the seats were too narrow for American butts. Took months more and millions of dollars more to retrofit bigger seats.

  27. Every time I have compared trains and planes and cars for a trip, the trains always takes the longest and costs the most.

  28. You know. People here shit on Christian, but I love his posts. Look at his posts lately, and you’ll see that every one is just him saying “Here, look at how stupid these people are.”

    1. Yea, he’s cool.
      One of (only?) the non-progressive writers here…

  29. This is the same government that is going to protect you when you surrender your firearms. Not only do they get it wrong, they get it wrong by 200′. Idiots. As you might expect, none of the ruling class bureaucrats are blamed and certainly none of them lose their jobs. No wonder the government is such a disaster. It attracts people who could not make it in the private sector and rewards their laziness and incompetence.

    1. Yeah not like off by 10-15 feet 200. To screw up is human to really screw up takes government.

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  31. I went down to the intermodal center
    It was the middle of the night
    I asked the station master if Amtrak was running late
    He said, “Amtrak? I hate to tell you, son,
    But that train ain’t never stopped here before.”

    Miami Mystery Train

    1. Sounds like a Train in Vain.

  32. Amtrak had total revenue income of $3.3Bn last year, and it needed $227Mn to balance its operating budget. So it fell short by 7%, and with that funding the USA got an entire mode of transportation.
    The track, tunnel and bridge repairs were another $800Mn, so total funding for Amtrak is just over $1Bn. What we should be doing is increase the funding by $100Mn a year and buy more locomotives and coaches so that Amtrak could expand their services in areas where they are in demand.

  33. How frequent are Amtrak trains in the station?
    How long is their dwell time?
    If its a big deal, then have 25th street go below grade and under the tracks. Another $50 Million…

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