Win-Win Proposal for the Local Commuters

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Grant Miller, Publisher

During a major press conference at Miami-Dade County Hall today, I witnessed as Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez unveiled details of an innovative plan that will affect public transportation in our region for years to come. I have to say, I thoroughly agreed with almost everything he laid out. He discussed some big ideas that will have major impacts on mobility in our community.

Not surprisingly, though, I’ve often found myself in alignment with many of this mayor’s initiatives. He has consistently remained focused on the economic potential, fiscal sustainability, and opportunities for development in our community.

Today’s announcement furthers his vision of making our community more affordable and more accessible – by encouraging us to think more broadly, and by taking control of our transportation options in order to make some real changes on public transportation here locally.

Mayor Gimenez noted that, while he agrees with the premise of two State bills currently pending in the legislature (HB 385 and CS/SB 898), proposed by sponsors Representative Bryan Avila and Senator Manny Diaz, more needs to be done to improve mobility in our community – and he wants to take a different course.

Rather than give up our local revenues to the state, the mayor is suggesting we should take local control of transportation revenues generated here by local residents and visitors. Through the creation of the Transportation Authority of Miami-Dade (TAMD), consolidating the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) and Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike (HEFT), he says we can leverage toll revenue to improve transportation options throughout the county while saving residents and visitors a significant amount of money. Initial projections indicate that by combining these systems and refunding outstanding debt, tolls will be lowered for the HEFT and MDX by 20 percent immediately.

He also is proposing that, moving forward, tolls will not be subject to Consumer Price Index increases, as the state currently requires, and managed lanes (essentially a toll within a toll) will not be implemented as currently planned by the State. These actions save toll payers in Miami-Dade County $8.5 billion. In addition, a new $1.85 billion will be available for public transportation needs in our community, including the People’s Transportation Plan. Money collected in Miami-Dade County will stay in our community and benefit the people of Miami-Dade County.

Access ramp to MIA from SR 836 flips to opposite side of highway
Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez

This just makes sense, the mayor said. And I agree.

So, let’s take a closer look. At the core of the mayor’s proposal are real toll-rate reductions that can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Merge MDX and the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike (HEFT), and change its governance and financial structures. The governance should be comprised of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, the mayors of the four-largest cities that abut the system (Doral, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Miami), and four other local elected officials appointed by the governor to ensure accountability to our residents.
  • The TAMD will take control of the HEFT by paying off the county’s proportional share (11.7 percent, based on lane miles) of the Turnpike’s outstanding debt of approximately $2.6 billion through a 33-year bond issuance.
  • The Turnpike will keep the county’s proportional share of its unrestricted cash of $844 million, which, based on the 16.7 percent of Turnpike revenues generated by the HEFT, amounts to $141 million.
  • The TAMD will not increase MDX toll rates by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the next 33 years. Revenues of the system will grow naturally as the population increases at an estimated 2 percent per year on average.
  • While the Turnpike currently has automatic, annual CPI increases, the TAMD will also keep tolls flat for CPI on the HEFT over the next 33 years. At a conservatively assumed CPI increase of 2.2 percent per year and assuming that traffic isn’t diverted off the HEFT, HEFT toll payers will be saving about $4.46 billion over the next 33 years. As a further cost-avoidance measure, the TAMD will not have managed lanes (also known as “Lexus Lanes”) within the Turnpike, which are, in essence, a toll-within-a-toll.
  • The TAMD will also further decrease toll rates on both the MDX and HEFT systems by 20 percent, thereby saving our commuters an additional $4 billion over the next 33 years. And, as with the existing MDX system, truckers using the HEFT will be charged for a maximum of only 3 axles, which we estimate will average a 50 percent overall savings.

This proposal will result in a total of $9 billion in savings to toll payers. It will allow for operations and upkeep of both systems, and will allow both systems to complete their current Capital Improvement Program, including needed safety projects. The Kendall Parkway will get built, including express bus service that will bring much needed relief to nearly 600,000 commuters in South Dade.

Next step: Governor DeSantis and our local delegation need to make this happen.

I believe the plan proposed by Mayor Gimenez will result in a community that is more affordable, more accessible, more resilient — a community that we can all be proud to call home. I also believe this is a plan that all us who care about the future of transportation should support.


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14 COMMENTS

  1. Keeping Turnpike toll money here is the right thing to do. Also get rid of the “Lexus Lanes”. They continue to create a two tier system of equality where some people are more equal than others.

  2. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposal makes perfect sense and undoubtedly will ultimately benefit ALL Miami-Dade County residents. The greatest current challenge within the County, given the out of control massive development happening throughout the County, is solving our transit and traffic problem and this is potentially a viable first step that could be implemented quickly. It needs to happen but be monitored closely so we don’t end up with a repeat of the half cent sales tax fiasco.

  3. While the plan makes sense… more focus should be in reducing the amount of traffic by investing more on metro-rail.

    • I agree. Metrorail and Tri-Rail need to be part of the solution. Especially considering Tri-Rail doesn’t even get halfway into Miami-Dade County. It needs to be extended around the airport and west on existing tracks and rail right of way. Metrorail should be extended down South Dixie, west on Kendall Dr to at least 137 Av, and north on 27 Av to the Broward line where that County could contribute to extend it further north.

  4. My life experience taught me that if things are not done right at the very beginning there will always be glitches down the road. One has to go back, correct errors & only then proceed. In mayor Gimenez’s proposal I do not see the willingness to correct past mistakes. In my opinion closing the grid as it was originally designed is a MUST! Only after every designed bridge will be constructed there is hope for the city. Forget about Turnpike for now.

  5. How much does MDX and HEFT currently raise in tolls Gross $__________ less costs $_____ to net $________ per annum. Instead, get rid of all tolls/related overhead and increase gas tax in the county by say $0.10 (whatever it takes to replace the net toll revenue w/existing system in place) to fund public transportation and road improvements. Take into account intangible costs of time and gas/pollution with current congestion? Pay off the MDX/HEFT debt and use $ from gas tax where everyone pays w/o more overhead.

    Florida’s gas tax is one of the highest in the country, totaling 36.59 cents per gallon. An additional 18.4 cents goes to the federal government, before cycling back down to state projects. The revenue helps restore and maintain the state’s aging infrastructure. Avg gas price in SFL $2.60 … avg. miles drives per person per year 12k x 4.5M SFL drivers x $0.20 will raise more “net” $10-12B per annum for roads and public transportation than all tolls combined and encourage more folks to take public transportation or car-pool / ride share / Uber / lyft.

    https://www.flhsmv.gov/pdf/driver-vehiclereports/drivers.pdf

  6. I’d like to ask those who responded positively where they live. I live in far West Kendale Lakes and will be close to the new expressway. I fight the traffic daily – driving 45 minutes to get to my office 4.5 miles from home. I sat in the meeting when the proposed extension was rolled out where residents were told this was the answer to traffic issues. I isn’t. This article puts the spotlight on the real reason for the extension – money. They are hoping to get drivers to use it instead of the Florida Turnpike. I, for one, avoid the Metro-Dade run expressways as much as possible because they are horrible. The 836 is a parking lot from 107th Avenue to I-95. Why would a person willingly choose to take an expressway that merges with that mess? In my personal opinion, the traffic issues all stem from unrestricted development out west without the collection of impact fees from the developers. We need to stop building schools (and school zones during rush hour) on main roadways. Enclosed developments are nice… until they mean you cannot get around roads blocked by an accident. Traffic lights every other block may be necessary to get out of shopping centers, but they had long delays to the drive. Look to other major cities, or even areas, for answers. There are “business routes” that take you through the areas where traffic is heaviest, only if you need to be there. Then there are alternate routes that skirt those areas. Bridges go over whole areas of cities. Think of a “bridge” from 137th Avenue and Kendall that went over the Turnpike and ended at 107th Avenue. The fly-over to Useless 1 was a great idea – except it ends in gridlock because the lights don’t allow for the conjunction of cars merging from Kendall Drive, SW 80th Steet, 67th Avenue, and the fly-over. Our roadways are a mess. Someone needs to take another look at the master Plan and see how this can be resolved with future expansion in mind.

  7. Stop it! Build light rail/trollies to get people off the roads, instead of more roads and tolls. More buses and special lanes for them are not the answer either.

  8. Public transportation should be discussed first and foremost, not more traffic lanes and congestion. I live in Kendall; I have to choose side roads just to get anywhere on time. We are barking up the wrong tree!!!!!

  9. MDX is a bureaucratic mastodon, intent on ballooning executive pay by placing a toll on every corner. The road gridlock is terrifying at ANY time, weekday, day or night. The county is about to built on more swamp land northwest of the county to satisfy the developers’ appetite for more money without any thought on improving mass transportation promised the voters. Enough is enough! Some of us see right through the shell game. Make a commitment to build mass transportation NOW! No more puny buses, get-a-going with a real transportation master plan. You want to build New York here, then do it right or not at all.

  10. Improved zoning is an important element to the transportation problems. Until the zoning issue is seen as a condition precedent to mass transit, mass transit cannot succeed and auto and truck congestion will only get worse.

  11. Residents east of US1 need metro rail on the daily. 1/2 penny funded promises both north and south have been ignored again!

  12. All I hear is how much money the county plans on taking back from the state. Great, BUT, I did not see anything in this article that explains how the Mayor will solve the issue of traffic congestion. The County Commissioners has had a “Traffic Task Force “ for years and all we have seen and heard is Empty promises and Crickets.
    Giving more money to this local government is a bad idea. Can anyone say Marlin Park!!!!

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