The Underline
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The Underline: Miami-Dade County’s Newest Endeavor

Miami-Dade County’s newest project, a 120-acre urban trail called the Underline, has just finished the first phase, which costs $14.2 million in its manufacturing process. The project is slated to finish by 2025.

The Underline is a public-private partnership between the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works and Friends of the Underline — a nonprofit organization that is advocating to transform the underutilized land below Miami’s Metrorail into a 10-mile linear park and urban trail. 

The project received a $22.3 million BUILD Transportation Grant by the federal government in 2019 and $7 million from the City of Coral Gables in July 2020. It also received $50 million from the City of Miami.

The Underline’s first phase introduced the Brickell Backyard to the public, which consists of urban biking and walking paths, basketball courts, soccer fields, gyms and restaurants. It runs from the Miami River to Southwest 13th Street.

Magaly Duarte, marketing coordinator of Friends of the Underline, believes the new urban trail will provide many more opportunities for citizens to access leisure activities.

“We have transformed neglected dead space below the Metrorail into an active, vital amenity for residents of all ages to enjoy,” said Duarte.

As of now, the second phase — estimated to cost around $18 million — is currently in its designing process and has yet to be constructed. It will consist of a 2.14-mile long trail that will connect Southwest 13th Street to Southwest 19th Avenue. 

The preliminary design of the additional trail includes proposed playgrounds, plazas, bike racks and various seating areas.

Friends of the Underline’s CEO and Founder Meg Daly conceived the idea of the Underline after breaking both her arms in a bicycling accident. After walking on the uneven concrete underneath Miami’s Metrorail, she envisioned a safe space where Miami-Dade residents could walk, bike and enjoy themselves. 

The plan for the Underline also serves to address growing concerns regarding climate change, such as the expectation that Miami will face 1-3 feet of sea level rise by 2060. 

Despite this, the Underline claims to have taken precautions to keep the environment stable. 

“With climate change in mind, the Underline features green infrastructure like bioswales for stormwater remediation. We are also planting 4,000 trees and thousands of native plants to help restore biodiversity and create a new home for pollinators, butterflies and birds,” said Duarte. 

Private ownership of land in the area has also been cited as an issue. Cara Despain, who designed the park’s glow-in-the-dark ping pong tables, said that public space is disappearing due to the large amount of private land ownership and the changes in geography, alluding to the rise in sea levels. 

Legislation like House Bill 631 have contributed to the wider problem created by private ownership in Miami-Dade County. Signed in 2018, the law allows beachfront property owners to eject people from parts of the beach they own for trespassing. 

Phase three of the Underline’s construction will be its most expensive stage, costing $109 million. This phase will consist of a 7-mile long trail that connects Southwest 19th Avenue to the Dadeland South Metrorail Stadium.

This final phase is currently in the Miami-Dade County procurement process, which makes decisions of what to purchase for the trail.

“Everyone in the community has been anticipating this moment for a long time… [Brickell Backyard] is a space where people of all incomes, ages and races have come together to gather and connect,” Duarte said.

Check out other recent articles from Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: Miami skyline. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3sdekry)

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