When Miami-Dade Expressway Authority officials first proposed replacing the South Dade Busway with a new expressway, Pinecrest officials were against it.
Two years later, MDX officials are continuing a study to determine whether to build the highway, which they say could mitigate the traffic jam that is U.S. 1 during South Dade’s rush hours. But village leaders are still against it, fearing it would hurt the business district and some homes bordering the route.
“The corridor isn’t very wide and homes immediately back up to it,” said Pinecrest Village Council member Bob Ross. “An additional whiz of expressway will adversely impact them, the street they’re on and possibly the whole neighborhood tremendously.”
The village and MDX will hold a public meeting on Monday to discuss the project with residents.
Residents and council members have challenged the study, fearing the roads could adversely impact traffic and property values. In turn, MDX will present three variations to the proposed project and the study’s current status, focusing on the northern segment and the potential connection with the Palmetto Expressway.
MDX began its Project Development and Environment study in 2011 with Miami-Dade Transit and the Florida Department of Transportation to maximize use of existing roadway, reduce congestion along U.S. 1 and enhance transit and traffic operations. Buses would continue to use the new expressway.
According to MDX spokeswoman Tere Garcia, early findings indicate that tolled express lanes on the Busway meet all of these goals and “the 12-mile facility could be constructed almost entirely without encroaching on private property.”
“In reality, the biggest concern from Pinecrest is that overpasses across the way will be visual eyesores,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the study is shaped by public input and MDX has addressed aesthetic concerns by considering “artistic architectural treatments” and landscaping options.
“We’ve been working with them, and if at the end of the study they still oppose, then that’s their position,” Garcia said.
The Village Council voted in favor of two resolutions regarding the study: (1) opposing the proposed project, asking Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization to suspend the study and focus its attention on extending Metrorail to the south, and (2) urging MDX to hold formal presentations for residents, businesses and other interested groups.
Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner said MDX hasn’t done enough to reach out to village residents.
“We took it upon ourselves to do the outreach because the public meetings that MDX were holding were so poorly solicited and attended that the community didn’t have a chance to learn about this really awful proposal that is being studied,” Lerner said.
Lerner said she wanted to make sure the Village Council got the word out — and it did. The council’s 2012 public meeting about the study drew in more than 200 people.
Lerner said different options need to be explored and different studies need to be conducted.
“South-Dade is only focusing on this study despite the fact that there are several alternatives recommended by citizen groups and consultants,” Lerner said. “None have been pursued.”
The village even submitted a proposal to MPO for funding for a parallel study. Lerner said the proposal was ignored. The MPO is a transportation board made up of county commissioners and city officials who set priorities for road projects in Miami-Dade.
“We’re drafting a new [proposal] and hoping several South Dade cities will submit proposals too,” Lerner said.
The proposed expressway borders Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay.
Garcia stressed that the study is ongoing and the project will only be finalized if it is concluded that express lanes are feasible and improve transit. The study is expected for mid-2015 completion.
In the meantime, the Council says it will work to inform and engage the community.
The public presentation will begin at 6 p.m. at the Pinecrest Community Center.