As it fends off efforts to shut it down, Miami-Dade’s toll board on Friday announced a revived rebate program that will give refunds for drivers paying at least $250 a year on the county’s expressways.
That’s a far higher qualifying amount than the $100 threshold in the previous rebate program offered by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. But the program approved this week means a return to rebates for the toll system’s heaviest users, who would receive a 15 percent rebate by check in the fall of 2019, MDX spokeswoman Tere Garcia said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who serves as chairman of the appointed MDX board, said he wanted the new rebate program to focus on motorists “that really, really need relief.” The board approved the new program Thursday night.
The prior rebate program ended after Republican lawmakers from Miami, including the current lieutenant governor, Jeanette Nuñez, succeeded in passing bills in 2017 and 2018 that forced the MDX board to cut tolls by 6 percent last year. With less toll revenue, MDX said there was no cash left to pay out rebates at the end of 2018. That effectively ended the rebate program.
Gimenez is heading to Tallahassee next week for talks on a new House bill that would dissolve the MDX and shift its toll operations to the state, which already collects tolls on the Florida Turnpike and on express lanes that run through Miami-Dade. MDX manages five expressways: the Dolphin, Gratigny, the Don Shula, the Snapper Creek, and the Airport expressways.
The new legislation follows backlash against MDX tolls and demands by some local politicians that the toll agency shift dollars to public transit. Advocates of the toll board see the legislation as merely shifting MDX expressways from local to state control without any hope of eliminating tolls and a likelihood that Florida would find a way to siphon Miami-Dade toll revenue out of the county.
MDX has agreed to fund transit systems that run along its expressways and is rebuilding lanes on the Dolphin to accommodate a new express bus service that will run from the western suburbs to downtown.
About 30 percent of MDX’s 1.4 million monthly toll payers should be eligible for the new rebate program, according to materials submitted to the toll authority’s board.
People registered for the previous rebate program are automatically registered for the new one. New users may begin signing up on mdxway.com on Feb. 14, and registration ends April 17. The first 12-month period runs from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019.