More toll express lanes coming to South Florida

Motorists will find it more expensive to drive around South Florida roadways in coming years, as a new network of toll lanes takes shape.

The network would extend from Florida City in southernmost Miami-Dade County to Interstate 595 in central Broward, and from Interstate 75 in western Broward to Interstate 95 in east Broward.

“One of the main projects we foresee are the managed lanes project,” said Harold Desdunes, the Florida Department of Transportation’s district director of transportation development in Miami, using the formal designation for toll express lanes.

Ananth Prasad, FDOT’s secretary, announced the outlines of the project in 2011.

The toll lanes project builds on existing express lanes on I-95 in Miami-Dade that operate between just south of State Road 112 and the Golden Glades Interchange. The system now is being extended from the Golden Glades to Broward Boulevard.

But according to maps and other information provided by FDOT and other transportation officials at a recent meeting, express lanes may be added to several area roadways – including the South Miami-Dade Busway, the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike, the entire Palmetto Expressway, parts of I-75 and I-595. And the I-95 toll system now under construction eventually could reach Palm Beach County.

The wider scope of the express lane network recently became clearer when FDOT officials detailed the agency’s five-year work plan.

A central component of the Miami-Dade portion of the network is express lanes on the Palmetto Expressway from 836 to I-75, where they would link up with planned express lanes on I-75 to I-595.

There, the lanes would intersect with reversible toll express lanes now being built in the median of I-595 from I-75 east to I-95.

The I-75 planned express lanes also would be built in the median, said Judy Solaun-Gonzalez, senior project manager in Miami-Dade.

“The [826] express lanes would connect to the median of I-75,” said Solaun-Gonzalez. “And we would have a new bridge connecting Palmetto express lanes to I-75 express lanes.”

An FDOT map shows express lanes eventually running along the entire length of 826 from Dadeland in the south to the Golden Glades in the north.

Express lanes on the network would charge variable toll rates, depending on congestion.

At a public meeting Nov. 14 at Pinecrest Gardens, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) officials detailed their plan to add possible express lanes to the Busway, which runs parallel to U.S. 1.

MDX is conducting a study on possible alternatives to ease traffic congestion along the U.S. 1 corridor, one of which includes express lanes plus construction of overpasses or underpasses at intersections so Busway vehicles can bypass traffic lights.

The Busway plan has drawn criticism from some quarters in Pinecrest Gardens – though at the meeting, some people backed the idea of adding express lanes.

“This is a good idea,” said John Pell, who attended. “The east-west traffic will flow more quickly because currently it has to wait a long time for Busway and U.S. 1 traffic to clear the intersections.”

Pell said some residents oppose it because they don’t want commuters driving through.

Neighborhood leader Holly White said she is concerned that the new toll lanes would bring cut-through traffic into the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It could be very dangerous for our children and disruptive to our neighborhood,” she said.

More details on the I-75 express lanes project are expected to be discussed during three additional meetings in Broward:

Here is the schedule for the three meetings, which will be held in the board room of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) at the Trade Centre South Building, 100 W. Cypress Creek Rd., Suite 850, Fort Lauderdale:

• 2:15 p.m. Monday, the technical coordinating committee meets.

• 6 p.m. Tuesday, community roundtable.

• 9:30 a.m. Dec. 13, open debate among members of the MPO.

Miami Herald staff writer Ashley Lopez contributed to this report

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