Miami-Dade commissioners and representatives of municipalities in the county have begun a process to radically change the way transportation projects are planned locally in a bid to speed up the creation of new services such as express buses or light-rail systems.
“The process is going to have be flipped,” County Commissioner Dennis Moss, chairman of a special committee to reform transportation planning in Miami-Dade, said last week. City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez echoed Moss’s remarks saying, “What we need is to craft a vision of what we want.”
Until now, agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) bring projects for approval or rejection to the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which includes Miami-Dade commissioners as well as representatives of municipalities such as the City of Miami and the mayors of Hialeah, Homestead, Miami Beach, Miami Gardens and North Miami.
But at a meeting last week of the special MPO committee to find transit solutions, Moss said that it should be the MPO that crafts the plans and then directs the agencies to carry them out.
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Meetings of the special MPO committee are taking place at a time when there is widespread anger among commuters in South Florida because of a recent hike in tolls on State Roads 836 and 112.
The toll increase, which took effect in November, when a new electronic toll-collection system was activated, sparked the wrath of thousands of commuters who use the toll roads to go to work and then home.
As a result of the anger, several political leaders in Miami-Dade County moved to intervene more directly in efforts to relieve congestion on the roads and promote commuter use of buses and light rail.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez endorsed a recent bill in the state legislature — ultimately unsuccessful — under which the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) structure would be overhauled. The changes would have left Gimenez in charge of MDX.
County and City of Miami commissioners are currently debating whether to provide financial support to a plan by Tri-Rail to bring the commuter rail service to downtown Miami. It would be the first time, if the plan is implemented, a regional commuter rail service would carry passengers to downtown from Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Many people who live in Broward and Palm Beach counties, but have jobs in Miami-Dade, would like Tri-Rail to operate trains all the way to downtown Miami. Currently, Tri-Rail operates west of I-95 between Palm Beach County and Miami International Airport.
Moreover, several county commissioners who have influence over local transportation issues have said they want to see projects that benefit mass transit, not cars.
“More roads is not the answer to traffic congestion,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa during a recent meeting in which FDOT officials outlined a project for an overpass at the corner of Southwest Eighth Street and 87th Avenue.
The next meeting on transit solutions is scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers downtown.