A competitive theme in 2021 was the battle between Oakland Park and Wilton Manors to secure a coveted commuter rail station.
This is one of SFGN’s most-read news stories of 2021.
In late August, the Florida Department of Transportation recommended Oakland Park, favoring the city’s pedestrian connectivity and facilities, station visibility, street layout, on-street and public parking and planned development. The station is to be located on 12th Avenue between 36th and 38th Streets, south of the Funky Buddha Brewery. It is the only planned stop between Downtown Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. Brightline, a privately funded hi-speed train company, will provide passenger rail service at the station.
Wilton Manors did make a play for bringing the station closer to its city center and even hired former mayor Jack Seiler’s law firm to lobby decision-makers. In its project development and environmental study, FDOT found Wilton Manors lacking key criteria for walkability, sidewalk standards, improved crosswalks and bike/pedestrian inventory.
“This lack of implementation of important mobility improvements affects the city’s TOD [transit-oriented development] readiness, a key criterion considered by the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] for potential New/Small Starts funding,” FDOT’s study read.
In a letter to the Sun Sentinel, Oakland Park City Manager David Hebert revealed the station was branded a shared location with the working title of WilM.O Park. Wilton Manors Commissioner Chris Caputo said the evaluation process brought out the best in both cities.
“It is an example of the two cities collaborating to achieve the best possible outcome,” Caputo said. “Having Wilton Manors reflected in the station names will increase potential ridership among those travelers interested in Wilton Manors. Conversely, we understand that Oakland Park is likely better suited from a land availability and financial position — so we are eager to be good partners as we are in so many areas.”