A campaign to ban tolls on expressways in Miami-Dade County gained qualified support from several candidates in the Nov. 2 general election during a Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) meeting on Sept. 13. The meeting came prior to a community- wide meeting scheduled for Sept. 27 to amass grassroots support for an outright repeal of ORT (Open Road Tolling) in Kendall.
Palmetto Bay mayor and county commission candidate Eugene Flinn agreed that he was against “privatization of taxpayer- built roads” when his stand on the issue was questioned by Carlos Garcia and Miller Myers, organizers of a “No Toll” campaign.
“Open Road Tolling by Sunpass on the expressways was sold as a non-taxpayer expense, but the truth is, it has become a daily expense for those who regularly commute on the expressways,” Flinn said.
State representative candidates also backed “non-privatization” when asked by Garcia.
House District 120 Rep. Ken Saunders said he was against “having any private companies in control of our highways.” Saunders cautioned that a recent 2010 bonding program will commit acceptance of Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) for the immediate future.
To finance its projects, MDX put $412 million in bonds on the market in August based on projected revenues from conversion of Sunpass collections on five Miami- Dade expressways, including the Shula (SR 874) and Snapper Creek (SR 878) that began toll collections on July 17. By 2014, MDX expects to increase annual toll collection to approximately $150 million from a current $109 million.
The Gratigny Expressway in north Miami-Dade began collecting tolls electronically on June 7 with the Airport Expressway (SR 112) scheduled to convert by 2012 and the Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) in 2013, completing ORT on all five MDX managed expressways.
“While we understand the commitment already made, we believe a change in the direction of handling taxpayer-funded roads is needed,” said Garcia who with fellow- Kendall resident Myers organized a Sept. 27, 7-9 p.m., meeting at the Civic Pavilion of the Kendall Village Center, 8625 SW 124 Ave., co-hosted by the KFHA.
Meeting information is available on a “rollbacktolls.com” website with advance questions accepted by email to info@rollbacktolls.
WORKSHOP TO FOCUS ON 136TH ST. RAMP
A public workshop on planning for a new ramp connecting SW 136th Street with the Shula Expressway (SR 874) to relieve growing traffic congestion in southwest Miami- Dade will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 6 to 8 p.m., in the Country Walk Clubhouse, 14601 Country Walk Dr.
The workshop’s “open house” format allows the public to view preliminary planning, ask questions and provide comments to Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) representatives on a one-on-one basis, according to Tere Garcia, MDX spokesperson.
Seven environmental issues identified within the project area for assessment include: floodplains, wildlife and habitat, recreation areas, potential parks and historic sites, aesthetics, and both secondary and cumulative impacts.
Potential noise and air quality levels surrounding the project area also are being assessed during the study, as well as noise abatement barriers, where warranted, feasible and desirable. A public hearing on construction planning is scheduled for June 2011.