The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is conducting a study to determine the feasibility of building a $400-million extension of the Gratigny Parkway toll road to Interstate 95, MDX officials said Thursday.
At a meeting at Arcola Lakes Library, 8240 NW Seventh Ave., they said that the $2 million project development and environment study would look at all options, including construction of a 2.5-mile elevated expressway that would link I-95 to the Gratigny, which currently runs from the Palmetto Expressway to near Northwest 32nd Avenue. The extension would run from that spot above 119th Street to I-95.
Though the idea of building a Gratigny Parkway extension to I-95 has been floated around for years, MDX officials said Thursday that the concept gained steam as a result of the opening of the PortMiami tunnel in May and the dredging of the port’s cargo harbor in advance of the expansion of the Panama Canal to receive giant container ships.
Expansion of the canal and the upgrade of PortMiami are projected to bring more cargo to South Florida, thereby generating more cargo truck traffic that will need better expressway connections, the officials said.
“What we would be doing is taking the truck traffic off of the residential community so that they can get on the highway system,” MDX chairman Maurice Ferre told the meeting. “If we don’t do anything, you are going to have so much congestion … you are going to have trucks bumper to bumper on the street.”
Will Suero, the project manager, said eventually there also could be an extension of the Gratigny from the Palmetto west to Florida’s Turnpike. This would create a second full-fledged east-west expressway in Miami-Dade County after State Road 836, the Dolphin Expressway.
MDX officials, including Ferre and executive director Javier Rodríguez, emphasized that no construction will occur anytime soon because there is no funding for it and also because there has been no decision to go forward with the actual design and construction phase. Officials said there is no target date to start construction.
The feasibility study is expected to be completed later this year and a public hearing is now tentatively planned for sometime in the summer.
The more than 50 people who showed up for the meeting appeared divided on the project.
Those who spoke against it said they feared it could devastate the residential community, similar to what the construction of I-95 did to Overtown during the 1960s. But those who spoke in favor of the project said it would create jobs and bring new businesses to the community.
The Gratigny is one of MDX’s five toll roads; the others are State Roads 836, 112, 874 and 878.