The public town hall meeting late last month in Pinecrest Gardens to review and discuss the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority’s plan to convert the busway adjacent to U.S.1 into a toll road was a huge success for the public and the community.
RollBackTolls is proud to have been at the lead on suggesting and organizing the meeting. We want to thank the honorable Mayor of Pinecrest, Cindy Learner, for her time and attention to this vitally important issue, and for making Pinecrest Gardens available. It was a great setting and the Village staff did a great job of making sure everything went perfectly. We also want to thank former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson for moderating the panel discussion and meeting. Her first-hand knowledge of the busway, its purpose and history made her the ideal person to moderate the meeting.
The large attendance for the meeting is proof that the public is not being reached effectively by MDX’s anemic outreach efforts. Indeed many of those present said that this was the first time they had any knowledge and information about the proposed project study, even though MDX has held three “public” meetings on this project. Noticeably absent from the town hall meeting were any high level executives, engineers, staff or board members from MDX.Meeting attendees did hear from the MDX lead project study consultant Allen Brick-Turin, who explained the finer points of the study. He said MDX is spending $6 million dollars to have Mr. Brick- Turin’s consulting company, Gannet- Fleming, perform the study that will be completed by 2015. The study focuses on building express toll lanes along the present day busway that runs parallel to U.S. 1 from Kendall Drive south to Florida City.
The reconfigured highway would have a series of elevated overpasses at all crossing intersections sections, beginning at Southwest 104th Street and continuing all the way to Florida City. Brick-Turin said the study is incorporating a transit, nonautomobile component. The project, if ultimately approved, would be funded largely by user tolls. No cost estimate for the project was given.
On the transit side, University of Miami professor Andrew Georgiadis spoke about why transit (MetroRail and other light rail) should be considered instead of a toll road for single occupant cars. In fact, an overwhelming percentage of the people in attendance applauded when Georgiadis spoke of why we need transit rather than tolls.
Attendees were allowed to submit written questions that moderator Sorenson then proposed to the panel. Most of the questions were directed at MDX and Brick- Turin spoke most of the time and at times did not have specific answers, stating that “the study is on going and not complete.” He made it very clear that the express toll lane project is only being studied at this time and there is no decision on the table to build. Ultimately the findings of the study will be presented to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Miami-Dade commission for the final decision sometime in 2015-16.
In her closing comments, Mayor Cindy Learner brought up the fact that a parallel transit study should be commissioned and the public should be presented with both options. We could not agree more! The idea of building an over 20-mile toll road for largely single occupant vehicles would be short-term gain for long term pain. The busway is too valuable as a transit artery to give up any capacity on it for an automobile toll road. The public wants transit and we should figure a way to make it a reality, however difficult it may be.
Carlos Garcia, a Miami native and Kendall resident, is the co-founder/cochair of RollBackTolls.com, a grassroots watch-dog group formed in 2010 to inform the general toll paying commuters of Miami-Dade about MDX (Miami-Dade Expressway Authority) and FDOT (Florida Dept. of Transportation). He may be contacted by sending email to email@example.com.