Train commuters looking to get off in Boca Raton could have two stops to chose from in the not-too-distant future.
A long talked about second Tri-Rail station in the city is closer to reality because more money has been found to help pay for the $18 million project.
The Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county's transportation planning agency, is prepared to allocate $8.5 million of federal money to a new station near Military Trail south of Glades Road. That would match the more than $10 million that the Florida Department of Transportation already has set aside for the proposed station.
"This has been on our radar for a long time," said William Cross, Tri-Rail's director of planning.
With the extra infusion of cash, the proposed new station could open by 2018.
It comes as the Yamato Road station in Boca Raton with 1,600 passengers a day, has become the busiest Tri-Rail station, surpassing Miami-Dade County's Metrorail stop.
With that kind of demand, Tri-Rail officials are confident that the city could support a new station. The proposed location for the new station near The Shops at Boca Center is surrounded by homes, office buildings and other shopping centers. It's also close to the Town Center Mall.
Plus, the city is interested in redeveloping that section of the city, encouraging developers to create places where people would live, work and shop.
A developer already has purchased the bowling alley and other property across from the Boca Center shops with plans to redevelop it.
"The demand would be substantial based on what would be around that area," said Bonnie Arnold, Tri-Rail's spokeswoman. "Boca Raton is a popular place to live and work."
"It could take the mall employees and others who work in that area off the roads," she said.
The sites Tri-Rail is considering for the new station would have limited space, which also would limit the amount of parking available. That would make it different from Tri-Rail's other stations that feature a significant number of parking spaces that allow commuters to park and ride.
To make up for that dearth of parking, the proposed new station would rely heavily on shuttle buses. An emphasis would be placed on commuters being dropped off at the station by family or friends. The area also could be developed to provide plenty of pedestrian access.
Another kink in the plans for the proposed new station is its proximity to the Yamato Road station. They're about 2 miles apart while most stations are about 4 miles apart. That could affect the operation of the trains, Cross said.
In the next two years, Tri-Rail plans to embark on a deeper analysis of the proposed station and its impact, determining the exact location and the cost to buy the land.
But the city is gung-ho about the station's prospects. It's prepared to provide shuttle buses for the station that would circulate around the area, Haynie said.
That's what the city does now at the Yamato station, shuttling employees to major employers like Office Depot and large commerce parks after they get off the train.
Doug Hess, the city's traffic engineer, attributes much of the success of the Yamato station to those shuttles.
"This is a good model for moving people through the commuter rail system," he said.
Since public transportation would play a large role in redevelopment in the area, the city is looking at making developers pay mobility fees rather than road impact fees to help pay for the development of the Tri-Rail station.
That would reduce the commitment from the MPO.
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