Fort Lauderdale's controversial Wave streetcar program just got its next green light.
At a special meeting on Friday, the city’s Downtown Development Authority unanimously approved moving the project forward.
It's the second of three steps needed to make the streetcar project a reality.
“The plan is to expand it to the airport, to the seaport, to Nova, to the university district, along University Drive, 441,” said DDA board chairman Alan Hooper. “All this stuff is what will be cultivated by planting this seed - and we have to plant the seed at some point.”
This project, he said after the vote, can be seen as the start for a transportation expansion in Broward County.
The Wave has received criticism from city residents who oppose the current design of the fixed-rail system, and the overhead cables.
The 2.8-mile streetcar would be powered by overhead lines in the city’s downtown area. It's supposed to start operating in 2021 and have 13 stations linking Southeast 17th Street to Sistrunk Blvd. (Northeast Sixth Street) and Andrews Avenue.
“There’s this concern around the overhead wires. That’s just one of the main concerns I hear a lot,” said Ben Sorensen, a candidate for the District 4 City Commission seat. “Why overhead wires, and why can’t we do something other than fixed rail?”
The answer, explained Jenni Morejon, the executive director for the DDA, is resiliency.
“These systems operate in coastal communities all over the Southeast, and coastal communities around the country, and withstand speeds of up to 165+ mph winds,” Morejon said. “So, they’re resilient in terms of whether it’s weather, and in terms of aesthetics, these are very minor.”
The first four bids for the electric streetcar ranged from roughly $80 million to $104 million over budget. The project is currently anticipated to cost more than $195 million.
The DDA did not discuss costs before members voted on Friday. Five out of seven members on the DDA’s board voted to continue to move forward with the controversial Wave streetcar project. The other two were not present.
The Fort Lauderdale City Commission is scheduled vote on the streetcar at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
To learn more about Fort Lauderdale's proposed streetcar project, visit http://wavestreetcar.com/.