Fort Lauderdale’s City Commission is officially on-board with the Wave streetcar project again.
Commissioners voted 3-2 at the regular commission meeting on Tuesday to officially move forward with the 2.8-mile-long streetcar loop and to consider new bids for the project.
Dean Trantalis and Bruce Roberts, both running to be the city’s next mayor, were the commissioners who voted no.
This vote was the third and final piece needed to keep the project going after original bids came in $74 million to $104 million over budget.
The other two pieces came when the city’s local partners in the project, the Broward County Commission and the Downtown Development Authority, voted in favor of keeping the Wave project alive and to update the three organizations’ agreement to split costs that run over the original budget.
Yet some Fort Lauderdale citizens who live downtown are not so happy with the vote.
Carol Kalliche protested outside the commission meeting. She said the Wave would disrupt the quality of life and worsen traffic in her downtown neighborhood.
“I live here, and all of these people that are here tonight live here," Kalliche said. “This is our neighborhood. And we are going to be negatively impacted by the fact that we have rails in the road.”
Broward County and Siemens engineers present attempted to answer commissioners’ questions early in the meeting, ahead of three hours of public input and the commissioners’ vote.
“We are the center child. We are the middle of the region. We know this. We have to plan for it,” said Gregory Stuart, executive director of the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization. “You have millions of people that are moving to our region every day. The Wave system itself, it’s a starter. It’s small.”
The long-term plan for the Wave streetcar calls for expanding its route over time to connect to light rail systems that will take people to the Broward County Convention Center and to U.S. 441. This is known as the phase two of the project and wouldn’t happen until 2022-2025.
After 2025, but not on a specific timeline, the county plans to connect the Wave to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades, Sawgrass Mills Mall and the BB&T Center.
During public comment, those who opposed the project questioned the Wave streetcar’s battery use, overhead cables, fixed-rail lines and potential impact on traffic flow.
Fort Lauderdale native Nancy Kimble was one of them.
“Listen to those that elected you to represent them,” Kimble pleaded with commissioners. “Fixing traffic can wait for a better and less expensive option.”
A coordinator with ‘FLAW: Fort Lauderdale Against The Wave,” and president of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Civic Association, Stan Eichelbaum, said the fight isn’t over. Candidates in the March 13 election have pledged to overturn this vote, including mayoral candidates Bruce Roberts and Dean Trantalis.
“We know they will overturn it,” Eichelbaum said.
It is a possibility that the new city commission could attempt to overturn the Wave agreement vote after the March 13 elections. The first meeting of the new commission will be on March 20.