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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 29, 2011

Miami-Dade making progress on getting back transit funding

During the 2011 campaign for Miami-Dade mayor, Carlos Gimenez referred to the transit department as a "train wreck."

Gimenez made that comment on his campaign website in May after service cuts were announced by the county forMetrorail, Metrobus and Metromover and amid a federal investigation into transit. In November 2010, the Federal Transit Administration took the unusual step of suspending grant payments of more than $182 million amid concerns about poor financial controls and the county's failure to follow procurement rules.

The $182 million was for preventive maintenance costs for bus and rail including everything from oil changes to radio communications and local American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) projects being administered through Miami-Dade Transit, according to county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie.

The suspension affected about 30 grants, FTA said at the time.

Gimenez said his plan for transit included "Working with the Transit Administration to fully resolve the current issues and restore federal grant funding." We are separately tracking a related promise to conduct an independent audit of transit to determine where waste, inefficiencies and duplication exist.

Let's review what has happened related to transit funding since the feds suspended the money:

November 2010: The Federal Transit Administration suspends more than $182 million in grants.

June 24, 2011: The FTA announced it would soon release $62.5 million in federal reimbursements to Miami-Dade Transit. This was after county chairman Joe Martinez and county manager AlinaHudak met with FTA officials and the county had conveyed to FTA that without the money there would be transit service cuts. The county says the money was actually released July 1 -- days after Gimenez won his race June 28.

July 2011: The FTA freed up $72.6 million to Miami-Dade Transit for reimbursement of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects. The Miami Herald wrote that FTA had frozen those stimulus funds even though they weren't part of the grants under scrutiny. The ARRA money was for upgrading infrastructure and money allocated to cities for their projects, county spokeswoman Trutie said.

July 15, 2011: Gimenez met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and discussed full restoration of FTA funds.

Nov. 23, 2011: The FTA sends a letter to Miami-Dade's interim transit director stating that it violated federal rules in selecting a supplier for new Metrorail trains. The Miami Herald wrote that the ruling came as the county continues to negotiate with the FTA and that FTA officials resumed auditing the transit agency's records.

Dec. 15, 2011: Miami-Dade received an additional $3.4 million.

So how much does Miami-Dade still have to get back of the suspended money? FTA spokesman David Longo said the suspended money ultimately grew to about $193 million by Sept. 30, 2011. The county can't get back about $40 million pending the federal investigation and can submit reimbursement requests for about $87 million.

Gimenez's promise was "Working with the Transit Administration to fully resolve the current issues and restore federal grant funding." It's clear that he is working with FTA to resolve the problems and restore federal grant funding. Miami-Dade County has received a good chunk of the suspended money back but not the full balance. Gimenez has taken significant steps toward fulfilling his promise here so for now we rate this In the Works.

Our Sources

Carlos Gimenez campaign website, "Transparency would have averted the transit train wreck," May 11, 2011

Miami Herald, "Federal agency suspends payments to Miami-Dade Transit," Nov. 24, 2010

Miami Herald, "Trouble at Transit: Is Agency in Control?" Dec. 25, 2010

Miami Herald, "U.S. expected to send $65M for transit; Miami-Dade County," June 27, 2011

Miami Herald, "Feds release more money to beleaguered Miami-Dade Transit Agency," July 15, 2011

Miami Herald, "Feds: Miami-Dade broke rules in choosing new Metrorail trains; Miami-Dade Transit," Nov. 29, 2011

Federal Transit Administration, Letter to Miami-Dade regarding protest appeal, Nov. 23, 2011

Miami-Dade County press release, Miami-Dade County secures FTA funds for Miami-Dade Transit Department, June 24, 2011

Miami-Dade County press release, Federal Transit Administration Frees up $72.6 million for reimbursement of Miami-Dade area projects, July 14, 2011

Interview, David Longo, spokesman for Federal Transit Administration, Dec. 28, 2011

Interview, Suzy Trutie, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County, Dec. 20-28, 2011

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