Residents can help make cars an endangered species

The Underline would run along U.S. 1 below the Metrorail tracks.
The Underline would run along U.S. 1 below the Metrorail tracks.

We are living during an exciting and transformative time in Miami’s history — one that represents a turning point in how we live and move around.

For much of our history, we have been a suburban community, with most residents dependent on cars. Yet, over the past decade, we’ve seen the population of Miami’s urban center increase by more than 100 percent, according to the 2014 Downtown Development Authority Demographics Report. Now, with almost half our 2.6 million residents living on a mere 15 percent of the land, a growing constituency of people are demanding more parks and green spaces and greater transportation choices to improve quality of life.

Local and state leaders recognize these needs and are supporting projects that will benefit our community now and for generations to come. Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature approved a budget that included $5 million in funding toward the Ludlam Project and The Underline. The funding builds on Miami-Dade County’s recent support of over $6 million and thousands of staff and volunteer-hours, pushing the vision of a more connected community closer to reality.

These are two critical projects that are part of a future off-road biking and walking network serving Miami-Dade County’s central core. It will be a park and greenway network likened to iconic projects such as Central Park, the Emerald Necklace in Boston and the Atlanta Beltline. They would add acres of new park land in the county while revitalizing existing public spaces through the addition of lighting, new paved trails, seating, public art installations and more.

Parks and trails promote physical activity and improve public health, boost property values, increase community engagement, provide free and open access to the arts, support local businesses and contribute to long-term environmental benefits.

The Underline and the Ludlam Project along with the Miami River Greenway and Rickenbacker Park (Plan Z) will become the ‘Miami Loop’. It will connect hundreds of thousands of Miamians with more than 30 miles of parks and off-road trails from downtown to West Miami and beyond.

The vision of the Loop is to create a more interconnected and accessible way for Miamians to move around our community. It will connect adjacent neighborhoods with recreational amenities and direct connections to several transit options — including the Metrorail — reducing traffic congestion as more commuters find it convenient to walk, bike or ride to work. For example, there are many schools, parks, and major transit hubs within a 10-minute walk from the Loop.

We at the Friends of the Underline and the Friends of Ludlam Trail appreciate the forward-thinking leadership by Gov. Scott, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the Miami-Dade County legislative delegation and many more state and local elected officials.

We believe this is just the beginning of collaborative municipal, county, state, federal and private support for this crucial infrastructure for walking and biking. Together we can build a sustainable future for Miami. Join the Miami Trail Alliance movement. To learn more or to volunteer go to: theunderline.org and ludlamtrail.org

Meg Daly is founder of Friends of The Underline. Tony Garcia is chairman of the Green Mobility Network.