As South Florida slowly returns to a sense of normalcy after Hurricane Irma, conversations around the water-cooler have included such questions as, “How did you fare through the storm? How long did you lose power?”
And although our brothers and sisters in the Florida Keys are contemplating far more serious issues these days – as their lives have been turned totally upside down – it is safe to say that despite our varying stages of recovery, we all prepared for the storm in very similar ways.
When a storm draws near, our thoughts go immediately to preparing and securing our homes and providing for those dearest to us. We start a process of gathering food, water, and other items to sustain us – all while deciding if and when we should just hit the road.
Likewise, government agencies overseeing infrastructure immediately engage in preparedness procedures of their own, but with one big difference – they’re thinking only about us. Making roadways clear and ready is high on their list, for efficient passage by first responders, resupply transports, and a potential mass exodus.
In the midst of the most difficult and dangerous time for travel – immediately following a severe storm due to roadway debris and flooding – expressways are the most secure way for these essential personnel to get around the county.
This is where MDX comes in, as the transportation agency that owns, operates, maintains, and enhances five critical expressways in Miami-Dade County.
MDX as well as other transportation agencies have in place what is called an “Emergency Preparedness & Response Plan.” It establishes procedures which provide a quick and efficient response to any emergency situation, including a hurricane. At such times of crisis, all agencies work in a coordinated way to ensure that the “First Response Team” can act swiftly in reopening roads in a quick and safe manner.
In a storm event, there is a response priority hierarchy established:
• First and foremost is safety of the traveling public and citizens on the MDX System. This includes ensuring that all contractors have secured their sites.
• Second is providing communications. Public perception can quickly escalate, therefore, it is important to explain procedures and enhance public awareness. Throughout Irma, MDX used its website and local radio stations for updates on roadway conditions.
• Lastly, assessment is made of any damage and needed repairs. In the case of the MDX system, roads had little to no damage following Irma. Landscaping specially along as SR 874/Don Shula Expressways, fared extremely well based on the resilient plants that were selected for this expressway.
There was a great deal public questions around the process of lifting tolls leading up to and following the storm. In the event of a hurricane, once the governor establishes a state of emergency, the next step is to call for evacuation. At that point, the governor considers lifting tolls to minimize any impediments to the evacuation process. This directive was in fact put in place during Irma for all state roads, which include the Turnpike, MDX, and other regional expressway authorities.
The toll relief measure continued until it was determined by the Florida Department of Transportation that the impact of the storm had subsided. It is important to note that decisions to lift tolls and reinstate them is made by the state for state roads not by local control. Because MDX highways are designated state roads, they fall under State of Florida directives – therefore MDX receives such orders through the Turnpike which is Florida’s Department of Transportation toll agency.
Always when these measures are taken, there is a financial impact to the agencies involved.
During Hurricane Irma, the loss in revenue for MDX was about $9 million. Other than that, MDX sustained minimal damage to its roadway assets such as signs, was estimated to be less than $1 million.
MDX believes there will be no long-term adverse impacts to its financial position.
Ultimately, what is important is that MDX was prepared to protect and serve the residents, tourists, and visitors during this trying time.
For information, visit www.mdxway.com/.