In a Major Coup, Meg Daly Gets a Grant for the Home Front
By J.P. Faber
Gables life-time resident Meg Daly took on the project of creating the Underline – a 10-mile corridor of parks and recreation facilities under the Metrorail – five years ago. Until just recently, however, the nearly $70 million she had raised so far did not include the three miles of Underline within Coral Gables. “This is one of the sections we had no funding on, and it was really ironic because it happened to be in my backyard.”
That gap was closed last month when Daly secured a $22 million federal grant to pay for the section between Le Jeune and Red Road. “We are very, very happy and feel very fortunate,” says Daly, who is retired and works as the project’s unpaid volunteer director. “This is really good news.”
Daly considers the grant nothing less than miraculous, considering that a similar application last year to the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD program was turned down. “The first time we asked for about $8 million. And since we didn’t get funded, we tripled our ask, which is of course completely irrational. Right?”
At first Daly refused to work on a second grant, an exhausting effort that took three weeks to complete. But, she says, attorney Daniel Balmori of the firm Hogan Lovells – who also works pro bono on the project – convinced her to persevere. “He said he had a good feeling about it this time,” says Daly. That turned out to be correct, even though the Underline grant was the only “trail funding” award by the BUILD program; all other grants were for highways.
Daly also credits a coterie of elected Florida officials for helping secure the grant, including Congressional representatives Donna Shalala and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Senator Marco Rubio. “There was a lot of work done in Washington behind the scenes,” she says.
Locally she tips her hat to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and to Coral Gables Vice Mayor Vince Lago. “Vice Mayor Lago has been a champion since day one,” she says. “All the resolutions that got us to where we are in the city were sponsored by him.”
“This is an important project for Coral Gables,” says Lago. “It’s going to be a game changer for the entire corridor.” Lago said his enthusiasm for the Underline was sparked by visiting New York City’s Highline project, which repurposed the elevated West Side Highway into a pedestrian walkway. The result was a revival of the area. “It’s become the backbone of that community, which is what I hope to see with the Underline.”
The timeline now requires another year to find $5 million in matching funds from the City of Coral Gables and the county’s acceptance and procurement of the grant, followed by a year of design work. “I would say this segment will be under construction by 2023 at the latest,” says Daly, who just turned 59. “We are going to be done [with the entire project] by the time I am 65.”
Funding the Underline, to Run 10 Miles from the Miami River to Dadeland
Total Needed: $120 Million
Funding to Date:
$52 million, from Miami-Dade County
$15 million, from the State of Florida
$2 million, from the Knight Foundation
$6 million, from Developers on U.S. 1
$22 million, from the U.S. D.O.T.
“The whole grant was built on cost-benefit analysis. You have to say what the costs and benefits are to making sure people don’t die while they are biking, or don’t get killed while they are crossing the street… I am not making this up.”Meg Daly on the grant application