Anybody who got a check from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority’s frequent-customer program this month should go ahead and cash it, disregarding glitchy emails saying it was a mistake, MDX officials said Wednesday.
“Take it to the bank, it’s good,” said MDX executive director Javier Rodriguez during a meeting with the Miami Herald editorial board. “Cash it!”
The MDX Advantage Program earlier this month sent out 38,000 checks totaling $2.2 million to drivers enrolled in the program, money that was saved because of lower-than-expected borrowing costs for MDX’s construction bonds.
But some kind of bug in the authority’s email system triggered messages to an unknown yet significant number of drivers saying the check had been issued in error.
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“We’ve got it all corrected now,” said MDX spokesman Mario Diaz. “Anybody who got a check can cash it.”
Aside from the confusing emails, there’s also been considerable disgruntlement among users of MDX’s five highways — State Roads 112, 836, 874, 878 and 924 — that the authority decided to distribute the money through a program that required signing up, rather than by cutting fares or refunding it directly to the SunPass transponders through which drivers pay their tolls.
But the MDX officials said it wasn’t technically feasible to send the money back to the transponders, which are managed by Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. And refunding the money through toll reductions would have cut them only a third of a cent — and forced MDX to enact another unpopular increase when the money ran out.
The refunds were just one of the subjects during a wide-ranging, hour-long conversation with the editorial board. Topics included practically everything connected to traffic and roads, from a magic-bullet cure for Miami-Dade County’s traffic congestion (“Shut down the airport and close the beaches,” cracked Rodriguez, the only way to stop the area from growing) to a wish-list for measures to ease traffic flow (Rodriguez’s top three: more express buses, coordinated municipal trolley and light-rail systems, and county-wide synchronization of traffic lights).
The officials conceded that MDX has a public image of an aloof agency that doesn’t cooperate much with other state and local transportation departments, but they said it’s unfair and incorrect. Rodriguez and MDX chairman Louis V. Martinez ticked off a long list of projects in which they’ve helped out other cash-strapped agencies, including the $90 million it spent on the entrance to Miami International Airport along LeJeune Road, $60 million it contributed to the state’s construction of the interchange between Bird Road and State Roads 826 and 874, and a loan to the state.
In all, they said, MDX has spent nearly $500 million on joint construction projects with other state and local agencies.