Miami-Dade’s beleaguered auto commuters might finally have something to be happy about: It’s finished. “It” meaning the insanely complex, seemingly endless reconstruction of the State Road 836/Palmetto Expressway interchange.
Some skepticism is understandable, but it’s here in a news release: The Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, who collaborated on the sprawling project, said on Monday that it’s officially complete, as of Sept. 27.
Yes, after seven years and $563 million, one of the longest, biggest and most mind-boggling road-engineering projects in Miami-Dade County history is at an end. Finito. Terminado.
“It’s really over,” said FDOT spokeswoman Ivette Ruiz-Paz. “It’s officially been accepted and all the paperwork has been signed.”
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The project was pretty much on budget, but it took longer than the five years initially estimated. Most of the delay was weather-related, said FDOT spokesman Oscar Gonzalez.
FDOT and MDX say it was all well worth the effort, which required re-routing a major canal and included construction of 45 separate bridges, bringing the interchange from a mere two levels to five dizzying, splaying levels of ramps, connectors and exits. The result, transportation officials say, is a safer, smoother and easier-to-navigate ride for the 430,000 motorists who traverse the interchange every day.
Aileen Bouclé, director of the county’s transportation-planning agency, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, called the project “transformative.”
“Traffic in the area is flowing more efficiently, and the overall positive impact to our community is invaluable,” Bouclé said in a statement.
But wait. The road-construction pain, alas, is not really over for Miami-Dade auto commuters, who are nothing if not masochists.
FDOT has now begun work to install tolled express lanes along the Palmetto — similar to those along Interstate 95 — from the West Flagler exit to Northwest 154th Street. That will take two years, give or take. And MDX is well into rebuilding every 836 interchange from Red Road to the Miami River Bridge, a job that will add a traffic lane in each direction and finally put every exit on the right. After that, MDX and FDOT will rebuild the 836 interchange with I-95.
It will be all good in the end, the agencies promise. And there’s a bonus: All the work will also allow Miami-Dade’s transit agency to run three routes of deluxe express buses on the shoulders of 836 to connect downtown Miami, Miami International Airport, Florida International University and points west.