Environmentalists air concerns over $300 million Krome Ave. widening project

Transportation officials say the widening of Krome Avenue will make it safer.
Transportation officials say the widening of Krome Avenue will make it safer. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.com

South Florida environmentalists are voicing concerns about the widening of Krome Avenue, a $300 million project expected to be completed by 2022.

Widening of the avenue from two to four lanes could damage the Florida Everglades, agricultural lands and further endanger wildlife, or prompt developers to seek expansion of commercial and residential activities west of the roadway where development is now largely precluded, several environmentalists said.

Transportation officials say the widening and overall upgrade of the road will make it safer. Relatives of dozens of victims killed and injured in hundreds of crashes over the years support the widening, though many say it should proceed at a faster pace.

Some opponents also say the widening may be a precursor to the possible extension of the Dolphin Expressway, also known as State Road 836, southward to West Kendall.

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) is currently studying the feasibility of such a project and is analyzing several possible alignments to extend the expressway. No decision has been made on which alignments will move forward into more detailed analysis. The alignments’ footprint will provide opportunities for bus express service similar to the future express bus service on the existing 836. There is no funding for the construction of the 836 extension at this time.

As part of the study, MDX has created a citizens advisory committee and an environmental forum group for further discussion.

Commuters in West Kendall have complained for years about increased congestion in their area and difficulties in reaching existing expressways such as the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike or the Don Shula Expressway.

During recent public meetings on the project, residents living in the area facing congestion and travel delays have expressed support for the project.

Environmentalists, however, believe transport officials should consider alternatives other than widening roadways or building new expressways.

“We are concerned that widening Krome will lead developers to want to try and extend the Urban Development Boundary line,” said Jim Teas, chairman of the Sierra Club Miami Group, which — as an organization — has not taken a position on the project.

“If Krome is widened, we are concerned that it could lead developers to request extension, changes in the Urban Development Boundary, the UDB,” Teas added.

Teas also expressed concerns about the 836 project, even though it’s still only a possibility for the future: “We signed a letter opposing the extension of State Road 836.”

Caroline McLaughlin of the National Parks Conservation Association, also commented.

“Our main concerns with plans to widen Krome Avenue are the environmental impacts that would come along with it, specifically in terms of impacts to wetland, ancillary development, impacts to threatened, endangered species like the Florida panther and negative impacts to Everglades restoration,” she said.

Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @Alfonso Chardy