The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has initiated a massive toll hike on the Dolphin and Airport Expressways (State Roads 836 and 112), increases that will more than double the amount of money paid by many of us as we commute to and from work. The new tolls could cost a driver commuting daily in a round trip from the FIU campus to downtown Miami an additional $400 a year or more.
MDX plans to use this new money — more than $50 million a year — to bond new projects to make so called “improvements” to their network of toll roads, including the 836/Dolphin, 112/Airport, 874/Shula, 878/Snapper Creek and 924/Gratigny. We will continue to be in a state of perpetual construction on our expressways and we will all experience more construction congestion, and longer and more frustrating travel.
What is wrong with this picture? Building more highways will only lead to more cars, more congestion and more pollution. MDX should seek alternative solutions and consider investing this new money in improving public transportation. The money from these toll increases could be more than enough to fund a network of Bus Rapid Transit lanes on the entire MDX expressway network. BRT is being implemented with great success on I-95 in Miami-Dade and I-595 in Broward through the foresight and innovation of the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT also plans to expand the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes to other expressways such as I-75. BRT systems are springing up all over this country and around the world. The systems developed in cities such as Bogota, Columbia with the TransMilenio system are worldwide models and standards for urban mobility.
Imagine being able to board a new articulated bus with Wi-Fi and ride nonstop from FIU to Miami International Airport or downtown Miami. This would save time and money, to say nothing of taking thousands of cars off the road and reducing air pollution. It could turn a grueling daily commute into a smooth and comfortable journey spent reading or catching up on email.
It is time for MDX to be part of the solution. The MDX charter states: “An expressway authority may finance or refinance the planning, design, acquisition, construction, extension, rehabilitation, equipping, preservation, maintenance or improvement of a public transportation facility or transportation facilities.” The money generated from this latest round of expressway toll hikes should be used to fund public transit, along with necessary highway construction and renovation.
We have to stop building additional roads and expressways in South Florida and, instead, find better solutions for our traffic congestion and transportation needs.