A number of cities are working to bring about improvements to the transportation system in the area, showing special support for a light rail system reaching south and urging county and state leaders to make it happen. Traffic delays and congested main roads are an ongoing problem.
The Palmetto Bay Village Council unanimously passed a resolution at its Feb. 1 regular council meeting that authorizes Mayor Eugene Flinn to “execute correspondence,” joining elected officials of South Miami-Dade communities expressing support for the implementation of light rail transportation, according to public information officer Jackie Calzadilla, who traced some of the history of the issue.
“In November 2015, the village passed a resolution urging the development of a plan of action to implement future transit options for South Miami-Dade with a strong emphasis on the development of a light rail transit system along the busway lane,” Calzadilla said.
“This would bring light rail transit to Palmetto Bay and its neighboring communities with a connection to the Dadeland South Metrorail station,” she added
“Yes, we need to lobby the state and federal government for funding for this. There may be no money earmarked now, but we need to make our case for the benefit and the greater good,” said Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor John DuBois.
Councilmember Karyn Cunningham agreed this should be done, and soon.
“There are many good ideas being floated at this time to address transportation funding,” Cunningham said. “We need to have a comprehensive approach to transportation funding, encompassing the diverse ideas and proposals from elected local, county and state leaders and community stakeholders. “One such funding solution has been proposed by [State] Sen. [Anitere] Flores. She has filed a bill that provides a funding mechanism so that the MPO can prioritize projects with reasonable expectation of resources being available. The bill authorizes the DOT to allocate $30 million annually for the development of passenger rail in Miami-Dade County.”
Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, another strong advocate for light rail, has been working extensively to bring it about.
“We passed the resolution a couple of months ago,” Bell said. “I’ve been working with State Rep. Kionne McGhee for the past couple of years to bring light rail to South Dade. We have assembled a coalition of mayors from South Dade. We signed a letter stating our desire for light rail as opposed to bus rapid transit.”
Mayors who have signed the letter already include those of Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Florida City.
“Bringing mass transit to the county is the most important thing we can do for the residents of Miami Dade,” Mayor Bell said. “I attend Chamber South Transportation meetings monthly and serve on the Miami-Dade League of Cities Transportation Committee. I am so glad it is finally moving past the endless studies to actual action.
“Regarding funding, [Miami-Dade] Commissioner [Daniella] Levine Cava is correct, Metrorail is too costly. That is why the county did not fulfill its promise to the residents in 2002 that the Metrorail would go all the way to Florida City. However, Rep. McGhee, our South Dade Mayor’s coalition, [Miami-Dade] Commissioner [Xavier] Suarez, and many others believe funding for light rail, which is far less costly, can be found.”
Commissioner Levine Cava responded to this newspaper with a statement following the Feb. 1 council meeting.
“Thank you, Palmetto Bay, for your advocacy,” Commissioner Levine Cava said. “I am working with Palmetto Bay and the other South Dade cities to bring relief to our traffic congested roadways and mass transit is a critical part of any traffic solution. While we work together to obtain light rail for South Dade, I will continue to advocate for immediate and meaningful relief from gridlock for our residents, including improvements to the busway that will serve a future light rail corridor.”
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner said she is on board with the concerted effort to improve area transportation.
“The Village of Pinecrest passed a resolution urging light rail be studied and has been advocating for light rail on the South Dade Corridor for several years,” Lerner said. “It must immediately be incorporated into the MPO long-term plan. And we must henceforth cease calling it the South Dade Busway — it’s the South Dade Corridor.”