Miami’s clogged roadways and shortage of transportation alternatives were top of the agenda as the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce opened its annual two-day goals conference Thursday.
“The future of transportation in Miami is not about the highway,” said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. “It’s about choices.”
Rodriguez and other panelists discussed solutions and funding sources that could address Miami’s traffic problems. Miami’s car culture will be difficult to penetrate, but County Commissioner Esteban Bovo said he dreams of a day when a student from Hialeah can get to Florida International University via mass transit.
Traffic in Miami-Dade has grown more frustrating over the past few years as the economy has bounced back — putting more commuters on the road — and South Florida’s population has boomed. Factor in tourists, and it gets worse. According to a study by traffic solutions firm INRIX, South Floridians spend about 37 hours a year stuck in traffic.
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Still, securing funding for transportation and infrastructure projects is tricky, said Jack Stephens, executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. When asked how much political appetite there is for action on Miami’s transportation problems, Stephens was blunt.
“Honestly?” he said. “None.”
Rodriguez said officials need to focus on local funding if they want a project to succeed.
“If we think we’re going to get federal or state support and we bank on it, we’re going to fail,” Rodriguez said.
Quality of life issues will be front of mind for Christine Barney, CEO and managing partner at rbb Public Relations, who took over as the chamber’s chairperson Thursday. Long, frustrating commutes are playing a role.
The conference, at the Hilton Miami Downtown, runs through Friday, when discussion will focus on potential opportunities in Cuba.