Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade approved the 836 extension. Now environmental groups ask court to block it

A southbound view of Southwest 157th Avenue running next to the Bird Basin Park. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has proposed extending the Dolphin Expressway south through the basin farther west. State water managers and environmental regulators raised concerns that the highway will cross wetlands intended for Everglades restoration. Miami-Dade commissioners approved the project, but environmental groups are taking legal action to block it.
A southbound view of Southwest 157th Avenue running next to the Bird Basin Park. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has proposed extending the Dolphin Expressway south through the basin farther west. State water managers and environmental regulators raised concerns that the highway will cross wetlands intended for Everglades restoration. Miami-Dade commissioners approved the project, but environmental groups are taking legal action to block it. pportal@miamiherald.com

Environmental groups trying to foil a new toll expressway into West Kendall are asking a judge to block the plan, citing what they call misleading information shared with the public before Miami-Dade commissioners approved it.

The legal actions by the Tropical Audubon Society and Friends of the Everglades aren’t a surprise. The groups sent letters signaling a likely court fight before commissioners voted in September to change the county’s master land-use plan to allow the 14-mile toll highway to cross Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary. The imaginary line is designed to shield the Everglades from dense suburban subdivisions and commercial complexes.

Backers of the project call it an overdue express route for traffic-clogged West Kendall, which isn’t served by the county’s Metrorail system. Critics call it a misguided effort to build a highway over sensitive areas that include underground water supplies and wetlands.

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, the independent toll board that operates the existing 836 expressway, would build the “Kendall Parkway” extension. An MDX representative was not available for comment Monday. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez serves as the appointed chairman of the MDX, and he holds one of the board seats filled by the County Commission.

In its complaint in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Friends of the Everglades claims a map of the proposed extension that the county was required to publish in advance of the commission vote showed an outdated plan for the route that was farther east than the one on the agenda for the Sept. 27 vote.

County administrators have previously disputed this claim, saying the public notice was appropriate. The county’s environmental arm has also said Miami-Dade can build the new highway without concern for drinking water below, since so much of Miami-Dade development already sits above aquifers.

In a separate complaint filed with the state’s Department of Administrative Hearings, the Tropical Audubon Society claims the 836 plan doesn’t comply with Florida’s rules governing land use. The filing claims the extension will worsen traffic on the existing 836, “imperil the County’s water supply” and hurt the Everglades.

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