By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Former Boca Raton Mayor Steven L. Abrams, who last month completed nine years as Palm Beach County Commissioner representing District 4, will soon be working on the railroad.
Abrams was recently selected as the new executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) by the group’s governing board. Abrams had served on that board starting in 2010 and resigned in May 2018 to place his name into consideration to replace Jack Stephens, who plans to step down from the executive director job at SFRTA when his contract expires Dec. 31, 2018.
SFRTA operates the Tri-Rail train system which provides commuter service from Mangonia Park to Miami along tracks owned by the CSX Railroad and shared with CSX freight traffic and Amtrak passenger trains.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity” to head the organization, Abrams said. Most everyone who knows Abrams realizes he is an avid rail fan and already uses Tri-Rail to commute to his county commission offices in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.
He will be able to continue riding the rails to his SFRTA office located along the tracks in Pompano Beach.
When he takes over Jan. 1, the new ED sees some “immediate” needs to deal with, such as “the financial situation.” He also intends to oversee the completion of the downtown Miami station, to be known as MiamiCentral. Tri-Rail and Brightline trains will both be able to use that depot.
He also wants eventually to create crossover connections that will allow Tri-Rail trains to move onto the Florida East Coast line now used by FEC freight and Brightline passenger trains.
Abrams doesn’t want to change too much at once, though. “I want to take things one step at a time.”
Abrams is known as the “Commuting Commissioner” because he was the first SFRTA governing board member to also be a regular Tri-Rail rider. “I have a passenger perspective,” he said. “I know first-hand what Tri-Rail means to the economy of South Florida when each day I join thousands of workers, students and tourists traveling on our trains throughout the region.”
During his tenure as SFRTA chair, Abrams was the governing board’s designee to represent the authority in negotiations with All Aboard Florida, the firm which operates Brightline high-speed trains between Miami and West Palm Beach on the FEC tracks. Rails are being extended so Brightline can eventually travel between Miami and Orlando.
Abrams was mayor of Boca Raton from 2001 to 2008, stepping down due to term limits. He led the city during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax terrorism scare that began in Boca Raton about a month after 9/11 and eventually spread to other parts of the country.
Earlier, he served five terms on the Boca Raton City Council from 1989 to 1999 and was a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board between 1987 and 1989.
Stephens, who’s about to step down, was promoted to executive director of SFRTA in 2014 after serving as deputy executive director since 2003. He spent a dozen years associated with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) before arriving in South Florida.
The executive placement firm of KL2 Connect was retained to conduct a national search for Stephens’ successor.
Robert Weinroth, himself a former Boca Raton City Council member, was elected last month as the new District 4 commissioner, succeeding Abrams.