MDX speaks out: Miami-Dade County commissioners ignored residents’ transit needs

Commuters from South and Southwest Miami-Dade sought an extension of State Road 836.
Commuters from South and Southwest Miami-Dade sought an extension of State Road 836.

Miami’s traffic is a result of its rapid economic and population growth, both consequences of a desirous destination for international commerce, tourism and residency.

If we don’t address this traffic situation comprehensively, the growing traffic will impede our ability to move commerce efficiently.

Recently, 600,000 residents who live or have businesses west of the turnpike were denied the possibility of expediting a game-changing solution to the traffic nightmare that the extension of State Road 836 can bring. Homeowner association presidents, representing thousands of homeowners in West Kendall, begged Miami-Dade County Commissioners sitting on the Operations Committee to allow the project to go forward. The CEO of West Kendall Baptist Hospital wrote a letter to Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the Commission outlining the need for families and emergency responders to access the hospital quickly.

To be clear: At no time was Miami-Dade Expressway Authority asking for the UDB line to be moved. The preferred alternative of the community hugged the UDB as much as engineering constraints would permit, while allowing for safe expressway speeds and accommodating turning radius for future rail. The on and off ramps were located on the east side with proposed multimodal transit stations. To suggest that the project could be built inside the UDB is unrealistic because of the impact of such an alignment.

An alignment inside the UDB would mean running the extension on the south side of Tamiami Trail from 137th to 157th Avenue and destroying the entire business corridor through eminent domain and thousands of single family homes and residential communities, as well as numerous businesses, schools and parks along Southwest 157th Avenue.

The accusation that this project would compete with the SMART Plan was disingenuous, since MDX is actually constructing the first phases of the SMART Plan along SR 836. This new transportation corridor would provide multimodal access to move people and commerce in an underserved and transportation neglected area of our community.

The project will extend the SR 836 Express/Technology lanes that support the Transit SMART Plan into Southwest Dade County to serve as platforms not only for Express Bus service but also for future automated buses and automated vehicles. The project also preserves an envelope in the median for future rail extension into West Kendall and Southwest Dade. It will facilitate ridership to existing and proposed transit hubs, such as the Dolphin Park and Ride currently under construction.

The No. 1 project selected by the 55,000 toll paying customers, including 4,000 local businesses, who responded when asked by MDX which project they would support funding with their toll monies was the 836 beltway extension. About 86 percent of those who will foot the bill for any MDX funded infrastructure project, agreed that MDX should continue to expand its current expressway system and offer them multimodal options on those expressways.

MDX takes great pride in the fact that every dollar collected goes back into our system and back into Miami-Dade County’s economy. Over the years thousands of jobs have been created and billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements accomplished through the efforts of MDX’s staff and our voluntary board of directors. Our Frequent Driver Rewards Program was the first in the nation and remains successful.

There is no “one size fixes all” solution to the traffic issues we face. To find real solutions, elected and community leaders must work together.

Louis V. Martinez is chair of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.