We recently published a piece that made a few heads turn, to say the least. Entitled, “Miami-Dade Cannot Afford to Lose MDX” (Feb. 7, 2019), it centered on state legislation now being considered that would effectively dissolve the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. It appears it resonated powerfully with some of our readers – and mostly negatively.
But we all know that people naturally tend to complain more than they compliment someone on a job well done. Why? Simply because we’re too busy to take the time to acknowledge that things are going our way. If someone says something we agree with, we just nod and move on.
Still though, it makes me wonder how many “nods” this story may actually have generated out there. We may never know, but what I do know is that we should always be wary of politically motivated power-grabs by state legislators hundreds of miles away. Especially one that may very well result in the loss of local control our own community expressway authority – and our local voice.
Yep, I’m one of those people. An engaged, educated, and satisfied user of MDX highways and services. Simply stated, I do not believe we can afford to lose MDX, and in fact am proud of what they have done for our community. I mean, if you read our story, the main reason MDX was formed in the first place was to reverse the flow of “donor county” dollars collected from highway tolls in Miami-Dade County from the coffers of the Florida State Capital.
I don’t want to re-litigate the points made in our earlier story. But a little history lesson never hurt. Once upon a time, all the tolls generated by users on the five Miami-Dade County highways (that are now operated by MDX) went into general state funds with no assurance that they would be returned to Miami-Dade.
There wasn’t even enough money to maintain the five expressways. Simply stated, our local transportation needs were not being met at a time when the economy was expanding at break-neck speed.
So, legislation was approved enabling Miami-Dade County to create a local independent expressway authority that would retain 100 percent of its toll revenues for reinvestment right here in our county. And for years it has been working quite well.
But now this bill suddenly emerges, threatening to transfer control of State Roads 836, SR 112, SR 874, SR 878, and SR 924 to Florida’s Transportation Department.
Just look at these amazing expressways that we enjoy here: I challenge you to compare them with other highways across the entire country for modern design, function, maintenance, and general attractiveness. We’ve got it good.
But sometimes good comes at a cost. And I think this is where so many people take exception to toll-ways. No one likes to pay tolls, plain and simple. But if you’re a user who uses MDX expressways to get where you need to go everyday, safely and swiftly – and in doing so, you spend fewer hours commuting and more quality hours at home – then this deserves a collective nod. Right?
There are also hidden costs of traffic congestion. Imagine if MDX had done nothing over the past 25 years to address our growing traffic woes. There’s a study that suggests total time wasted sitting there, bumper to bumper, can exceed five days – and something like $1,000 in gasoline and depreciation costs.
So essentially, tolls are collected and used to fund improvements and to give us a better quality of life. Period. If you don’t like paying user tolls, don’t use the toll-way. There are other roadways to get around town. And if you do like MDX expressways, then why would you allow your hard-earned dollars to be turned over to a far-away fund that will go to pay for projects in other counties all across the state?
Which begs the question. Why does Tallahassee want to take control of our toll dollars? Ummm, because it’s like free money. The state bureaucracy wants cash – your cash. And they are willing to prey on the generally held belief people that by dissolving MDX, tolls will be dissolved.
Not true. Tolls will remain in place. Local control will not.
Here’s another myth that confounds me. Why do so many folks down here blame MDX for all the tolls and all the traffic ills in all of South Florida? Wake up! MDX is not US-1, it is not Kendall Drive, and it is not MetroRail. Neither is it collecting tolls from the I95 Express Lanes nor the Turnpike.
In fact, as I understand it, MDX only collects 40 percent of the tolls in the entire Miami area, because MDX is a separate entity from both the Turnpike and I-95 Express.
I’ve got some other concerns, such as, do you believe the Florida Department of Transportation is going to be any better at highway construction? I don’t know, but I suspect not. Certainly there’s a better-than-likely chance we’re going to have to wait much longer for that bureaucracy to kick into action when needed, and when highway maintenance is required.
I don’t know that for sure, but clearly MDX is doing a stellar job on both those accounts. In fact, studies show that MDX is able to install enormous new highway systems at a much faster pace than the national average.
What we have in MDX’s five-highway network is a local solution that’s meeting the needs of people who need access to affordable and efficient commuting options. They perform roadwork construction quicker, they introduce cutting-edge creative solutions like using the existing infrastructure to operate bus express service, and generally do an incredible job helping to address the growing traffic ills where they operate. MDX also listens to our voices here, because we all call the same place home – Miami-Dade County.
MDX is also responding to the call to deliver travel options with their Bus Express Service on special lanes being built as part of the modernization of SR 836 to be completed this summer. This Bus Express Service eventually will tie with the same lanes on the future Kendall Parkway – and sere as the only viable transit option for West Kendall.
There’s an interesting thing about democracy and I believe Franklin D. Roosevelt captured it best when he said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
I encourage our readers to get educated on the facts around MDX, why it was created in the first place, and why it should be left to continue its good work here in our community. And then help educate our local representatives by telling them that we want our MDX shielded from the grips of those who wish to use our toll dollars to fund their own interests elsewhere across the state.
Let’s not allow Tallahassee jump into the driver’s seat. Instead, take a stand by giving a strong and discernible nod of support to the continued existence – and success – of MDX in the Miami-Dade community.
Michael Miller is the editor of Community Newspapers and may be reached at Michael@cnews.net