Just what clogged, congested, choleric South Florida needs: More cars, more sprawl, more endless commutes, more encroachment on the lifeblood of the Everglades.
What we need is another sexy highway. Call it the Kendall Parkway to make it sound pretty. Promise relief to the suffering suburbanites of west Miami-Dade County. More lanes, more lanes — any traffic problem can be solved with more lanes. And perpetual road construction is part of our lifestyle now; in fact, the sailboat and palm trees on the county seal should be replaced with Bob’s Barricades.
But Miami's Transit Alliance is not buying the concept of the Kendall Parkway as miracle cure. They are making fun of it. The organization that advocates for improved mobility and public transit has launched an anti-parkway campaign. It’s a parody. It features visuals of fun-loving folks in a jeep being attacked by alligators and before-and-after maps on which the usual red markings indicating gridlock magically disappear. The tagline says, “Solutions aren’t sexy — but highways are.”
“I want new roads, I want them fast! They haven’t worked before but that was the past. Sexy highway, sexy highway, I go 10 million miles an hour on my sexy new highway. Sexy highway, sexy highway, paving over the Everglades with my sexy new highway,” are some of the lyrics to a theme song composed by one of the group’s volunteers, William Moose, whose Twitter handle is @transportmoose.
The alliance plans to speak out even louder in the wake of a 9-2 county commission vote Wednesday that gave preliminary approval to the 14-mile extension of State Road 836. The $650 million construction cost would be funded by Miami-Dade Expressway Authority toll revenue.
“We decided to use satire because it is so bizarre that we’re even contemplating another highway,” said Marta Viciedo, founder and chair of the alliance. “We’ve built highways for 80 years here and arguably that’s what has gotten us into a constant state of congestion. It’s a failure of leadership and a lack of planning that we’ve never built the proper infrastructure. Yet we’re going to build another highway to solve all the problems highways created.”
Induced demand — the way that roads breed cars like puddles breed mosquitoes — is a tenet of traffic engineering. But Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” and prioritized expansion of the Dolphin Expressway over mass transit improvements, Viciedo said.
“Moving traffic off arterial streets onto a jammed highway that is already failing is going to give us the leaf blower effect — we’re just shifting traffic around,” she said.
Viciedo was born in Homestead and lived in West Kendall before moving downtown so she empathizes with desperate commuters.
“What people see as an alternative to their car dependency here is also failing: The Metrorail trains are late, the bus system is breaking down, we lack bikeways,” said Viciedo, whose alliance has also produced online campaigns highlighting problems with Metrorail and buses. “We don’t have great examples in Miami to show people how liberating it is not to drive. It’s crucial that we invest in the mobility options other cities have.”
The six-lane extension, which some opponents have nicknamed the Snakeway, would cross the county’s once-sacred Urban Development Boundary, opening protected wetlands and wellfield land critical to the county’s water supply to development of “fast-food chains” and “suburban sprawl” subdivisions, as the alliance’s song says.
"That this 'solution' will inevitably fail (highways in Miami are "obsolete before complete"), and that the gridlock will contribute to the drowning of Miami is sadly irrelevant to the most of the commission," said Sam Van Leer, president of Urban Paradise Guild who spoke in opposition at Wednesday's hearing.
Viciedo said the three and a half hours of comments from the public demonstrated how the highway has “divided a community facing serious resilience issues.” The alliance’s campaign was designed to counter the pro-highway campaign of MDX, paid for with toll money.
“While other cities invest in more transit, better transit and free pre-school (yuck!), our toll money is designed to do one thing and one thing only — generate more toll money for more sexy highways!” says the alliance on its site. “Trapping everyone in cars forever means more traffic and more tolls — it’s a win-win.”