The proposed 14-mile extension of the 836 expressway has divided the race for an open seat on the Miami-Dade commission, with one candidate seeing it as needed traffic relief for Kendall and the other an unwise intrusion of development into a flood-prone area near the Everglades.
Zoraida Barreiro, a healthcare executive running to succeed her husband, Bruno Barreiro, as the District 5 commissioner, and Eileen Higgins, a marketing executive and community activist, laid out contrasting positions on the 836 extension during a Sunday appearance on WPLG's "This Week in South Florida."
Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade's toll authority want the extension, which requires a County Commission vote because it stretches past the Urban Development Boundary. That's the line designed to protect the Everglades from development, and sets the divide between rural zoning rules and more intense development allowed in cities and the suburbs.
The extension would add 14 miles to the six-lane toll highway known as the Dolphin Expressway, and run through wetlands east of Krome Avenue.
Zoraida Barreiro pointed to pleas from homeowners for an alternative to Krome Avenue or Florida's Turnpike as a way to connect with the 836.
"This is something that is needed in that area. The residents of Kendall want it," Barreiro said during the debate hosted by Glenna Milberg and Michael Putney. "They've been asking for it. They need it. It's been horrible traffic in that area. That's going to help."
Higgins said building new roads hasn't helped traffic in Miami-Dade yet, and pointed to warnings that low-lying areas in the west have significant risks for flooding from a rising water table.
"I worry very much about putting any sort of development, including roads, outside the Urban Development Boundary," she said. "Anybody that witnessed the horrific flooding in Houston, when they begun to encroach upon their wetlands, knows the danger of taking our protected wetlands around from us, given what's going on with sea-level rise."
Whoever wins the June 19 runoff election for a seat representing parts of Miami and Miami Beach would miss an upcoming showdown on the 836 proposal, but still could cast a vote on the project later this year.
The commission is scheduled to take a key preliminary vote June 20 on allowing the extension. If the project wins preliminary approval, a final vote would likely come later in the year.
The vacant District 5 seat won't be officially filled until the election is certified days after the election, and the new commissioner would serve for the remaining two years in Bruno Barreiro's term. He vacated the seat in March to run for Congress, and the two candidates to replace him won slots in the runoff election after Higgins finished first and Zoraida Barreiro second in the four-person, nonpartisan primary last month.
Voting in District 5
Early voting is underway for the District 5 seat of the Miami-Dade County Commission. It runs through Sunday, June 17. Polls open each day at 8 a.m., and close at 6 p.m. on weekdays and at 4 p.m. on weekends. For details on early voting, click here.
Election Day is Tuesday, June 19, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early voting is available at the following locations:
▪ Hispanic Branch Library, 1398 SW First St., Miami
▪ Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach
▪ Shenandoah Branch Library, 2111 SW 19th St., Miami
▪ Stephen P. Clark Government Center, Elections Branch Office, 111 NW First St. (Lobby), Miami