ORT to begin on local expressways, July 17

Motorists who have been using portions of two Kendall area expressways for free over the years will soon have to pay for the privilege. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) will begin using Open Road Tolling (ORT) on a portion of the Don Shula Expressway (SR 874) and all of the Snapper Creek Expressway (SR 878) effective July 17. ORT relies on transponders located on gantries over the roadway in connection with Sunpass units in vehicles.

The mid-summer date was underscored by Teri Garcia, spokesperson for MDX, to a June 7 Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) meeting. She encouraged regular and occasional expressway users to obtain Sunpass units now.

Free Sunpass Minis were distributed at the meeting and special free Sunpass programs also are being offered to Miami-Dade College faculty, administrators and students at North and Kendall campuses. Otherwise, a Sunpass Mini is sold for $4.99 with the cost applied against first recorded mileage. Overhead units located on each gantry, now being completed on the Kendall area expressways, will record the new tolls in 25- cent charges. A gantry south of Bird Road on the Shula will collect a 50-cent fee in either direction.

The charges will result in $1 tolls for oneway trips between the Shula and Palmetto Expressway (SR 826), and 50 cents one-way (or $1 roundtrip) between S. Dixie Highway (US1) and the Shula via the Snapper Creek Expressway (SR 878).

Since 2006, Garcia has appeared on behalf of MDX at a series of Kendall meetings, and from late May through early June this year, explaining details of Open Road Tolling that will require tolls for the first time on portions of the Shula and Snapper Creek expressways. If a driver uses the expressway without a Sunpass, a digital picture of the vehicle license tag will be taken by gantry-installed cameras. Those motorists will be billed for any tolls due plus a surcharge of 15 cents per toll and an administrative charge of $3 for bill processing.

Conversion to tolling on the Kendall routes has been protested by individuals in several public meetings. The primary objection is that tolls will be charged where they were not charged before, especially on taxfunded highways.

Garcia has defended the MDX toll conversion as the only logical and equitable way to pay for future expansion through toll-collected revenues on a user basis, as well as paying for maintenance and other related expenses. In answer to queries, Garcia said the MDX will be looking at frequency discount programs to serve drivers using the expressways with greatest frequency.

“The MDX board has continued studying the possibility of rate reductions that would benefit drivers who most often use the expressways,” she said. “While nothing specific is in the works now, whatever might become possible would apply system-wide.” This changeover is part of a long-range MDX program to eliminate toll plazas on all of its expressways by 2013.

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