Some people who travel along a busy Northwest Miami-Dade corridor say a planned expressway above 119th Street will help relieve the traffic crush now heading to and from the Gratigny Parkway and Interstate 95.
But others are concerned that the project will disrupt the community, much like the construction of I-95 during the 1960s that devastated the Overtown area.
The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, known as MDX, is weighing construction of the elevated link.
“If this project is aimed at improving traffic conditions, it’s perfect,” said Eva Escoto, an employee at the Cafeteria La Primera Parada, the First Stop, in a strip mall on the corner of Northwest 119th Street and 10th Avenue, just west of I-95.
Though the idea of extending the Gratigny to I-95 has been around for years, the project gained steam recently with the PortMiami tunnel about to open in May.
The tunnel’s completion, as well as the deepening of PortMiami’s cargo harbor, are aimed at accommodating giant container ships expected to use the Panama canal once expansion is completed. The bigger ships are expected to bring more containers to Miami — and more cargo trucks to Miami-area roads.
Those trucks, the thinking goes, need better highway connections to get from Point A to Point B.
The tunnel will channel cargo trucks from the port to State Road 836 and I-95; extending the Gratigny to I-95 would add a second east-west expressway linked to both I-95 and the Palmetto Expressway.
Currently, the Gratigny Parkway runs from the Palmetto to Northwest 119th Street just west of 32ndAvenue.
The 2.5-mile extension would cost about $400 million, MDX officials said during a public meeting in late March. There is no target date for construction because the project is not within MDX’s five-year work program.
“What that means is that no funding has been identified for future project phases like design or construction,” said MDX spokesman Mario Diaz.
Another issue is whether a pending bill in the Florida Legislature will reshape MDX in the future, diminishing its authority to approve toll hikes.
“If MDX is no longer financially independent, that would limit MDX’s ability to continue its work program related to addressing the community’s transportation needs,” Diaz said.
Many drivers who use the Gratigny are commuters who live in Broward and work in Miami-Dade. Others live in Broward but like to drive to Miami-Dade for business or entertainment.
“It would be magnificent to have a fast and efficient highway like that so I can more easily come see my hairdresser,” said Ernestina González, who lives in Mirarmar. For more than 10 years she has driven on the Gratigny to get her hair done by Cecilia Ramírez, a hairdresser at the Brisas del Mar beauty salon, 11808 NW 10th Ave.
“Right now, after exiting the Gratigny, you run often into congestion on 119th Street,” González said. “It’s a mess.”
Ramírez, the hairdresser, said many of her clients come from Broward and complain about the traffic on 119th Street.
“A new elevated highway would help them a lot and benefit my business,” Ramírez said.
Also supporting the project: a man standing at the corner of 119th and 27th Avenue holding a large sign urging people to believe in Jesus Christ.
“An elevated highway above 119th sounds like a good idea to me,” said Thomas Brown.
One area worker said she is concerned that cars will topple from an elevated expressway.
“We are in danger,” said Aisha Brown, caretaker at My Laundry on 119th street near 10th Avenue. “Can you imagine if the cars and trucks start falling down?”
MDX officials said concrete barrier walls would be designed to keep vehicles in their lanes.