Miami-Dade County

A board tried to stop Miami-Dade from spending special tax on road repairs. It failed

Workers repave a stretch of road in Cutler Bay. Miami-Dade has a plan to spend about $1.7 million on similar projects, using the county’s half-percent transportation tax. It’s a legal expense, but a transportation board tried to block the expenditure in favor of bike paths and greenways.
Workers repave a stretch of road in Cutler Bay. Miami-Dade has a plan to spend about $1.7 million on similar projects, using the county’s half-percent transportation tax. It’s a legal expense, but a transportation board tried to block the expenditure in favor of bike paths and greenways. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

The historic fight to block Miami-Dade from spending its half-percent transportation tax on road resurfacing projects ended with a lopsided vote Tuesday to continue using the money for asphalt and filling potholes.

Ten county commissioners voted to overrule the first attempt in 17 years by an oversight board to veto a county decision on transportation spending. At issue was a $1.7 million budget for resurfacing roads across Miami-Dade.

Voters formed the board in 2002 to oversee what was then a new half-percent sales tax for transportation projects. The Citizens Independent Transportation Trust has limited veto power over county transportation spending, and the confrontation over road resurfacing was the first time the volunteer board tried to exercise that authority.

“It’s a question of priorities,” Javier Betancourt, the board’s new director, told commissioners during the debate over the $1.7 million allocation.

Filling potholes and smoothing over roads with new asphalt are allowed under the original 2002 rules for the “half-penny” tax, which was billed as funding both road and transit projects. But with the high-profile transit projects largely unfinished — including doubling the Metrorail and bus systems — some advocates for better transit funding want the county to divert road dollars to other uses.

The commission needed nine votes to overrule the transportation board. Ten commissioners voted to overrule, while two, Daniella Levine Cava and Xavier Suarez, voted to endorse the board’s recommendation not to fund the resurfacing budget. Commissioner Sally Heyman was not present for the vote.

Miami-Dade plans to install “adaptive” traffic lights along 10 of the busiest roads in the county in hopes of easing gridlock through better choreographed signals.

Betancourt said the board would like to see the $1.7 million go to bike paths, greenways and enhancements beyond just resurfacing roads. Commissioners argued it made no sense to strip money from the type of projects that were part of the original 2002 “half-penny” campaign and which are needed to keep roads in good condition.

“The majority of people who move in this community move by car,” said Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, chairman of the commission’s transportation committee. “As much as I want to see more invested in rail ... we cannot all of a sudden bury our heads in the sand.”

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