Miami-Dade County

Mega mall could bring 100,000 daily trips to Northwest Miami-Dade

A proposed mega mall could increase traffic on Northwest Miami-Dade roads by more than 100,000 vehicular trips per day, including nearly 12,000 during afternoon rush hour, developers have told the Florida Department of Transportation.

The estimates, which local transportation analysts termed “conservative” because they’re based on data collected at regular shopping centers rather than “multi-million-square-foot entertainment centers,” were contained in documents obtained by the Miami Herald in a public-records act request to FDOT.

The estimates were provided to FDOT during workshop meetings in February and March between FDOT staffers and representatives of Triple Five, the multinational conglomerate planning to build the massive complex it calls American Dream Miami near the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 75 near Miami Lakes.

The estimates are preliminary, unverified by anyone outside Triple Five, and almost certainly will change long before construction on the mall gets under way, FDOT officials said. “It’s not a proper traffic study,” said FDOT spokesman Tom Martinelli, an FDOT planning executive. “It’s just the beginning of the process.”

Triple Five officials confirmed that they had provided FDOT with some “initial projections” based on traffic data gathered at their mammoth Mall of America in Minnesota.

“But we haven’t done a formal study,” said Debbie Patire, Triple Five’s senior vice president for marketing. “When we know what we’re building and what’s been approved and what’s been zoned for, then we will work with FDOT and other agencies and make sure we have an accurate representation of the traffic that will be there.”

The figures are for traffic in 2040, when construction would be complete on the mall. Triple Five told FDOT that they believe American Dream Miami will generate something between 103,000 and 127,000 trips, counting shoppers, employees, suppliers and other visitors.

FDOT ran the company’s numbers through its computerized traffic models and estimated they would mean nearly 17,000 extra trips a day on Miami Gardens Drive, which runs directly into the mall site, with as many as 15,000 extra on some segments of I-75 and more than 11,000 on parts of the Turnpike.

Preliminary or not, the numbers — roughly double the 53,000 daily trips generated by Aventura Mall, the third-largest shopping center in the United States — raised eyebrows among some Miami-Dade officials. They noted that the new mall site is right now served by a single highway exit: Northwest 183rd Street, off the northbound side of I-75.

“That is a significant number,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo after an audible intake of breath. “Under the current configuration of roads, that would be a devastating scenario for the people living around there.”

Bovo, whose district includes residential areas near the mall site, said that Triple Five head Eskandar Ghermezian told county commissioners that three new freeway exits will be added in the area — on both the north- and south-bound lanes of the Turnpike, and from the southbound side of I-75. Coupled with an extension of Northwest 186th Street into the mall site, that would make six places for traffic to enter and exit the shopping center.

“If you’re spreading out 127,000 trips among six different ingress and egress routes, I could see that as much more workable,” said Bovo. “If you’re just going to jam it all in there under the existing map, I can’t see it....

“The traffic situation, for me, is the most important component of this proposal. A person who lives around there shouldn’t get stuck in a traffic jam every time he wants to go out to the supermarket.”

FDOT said no decisions about freeway redesign or construction have been made or even proposed — and won’t be any time soon. Only after the developers obtain the proper land-use permits and zoning to build a mall on the bucolic property, which now is mostly empty except for some grazing dairy cattle, will FDOT set up a formal traffic study, Martinelli said.

“From there, we’ll determine what the traffic impact will be from the proposed development,” he said.

American Dream would cover more than 3 million square feet and include a ski slope, a water park and a roller coaster among other attractions. Though the developer has acquired 200 acres for the mall, it’s expected to take months and possibly years to jump all the regulatory hurdles necessary for development.

Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this story.

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