Tolls could rise on four Miami-Dade highways
By Shannon Pettypiece
Tolls could rise 25 cents for cars and $1 for semi-trucks on four highways next month if the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has its way.
The rate hike would go into effect March 7 unless the public provides compelling opposition during a series of hearings next week.
An additional toll increase is expected in July 2005, with tolls going up 25 cents for cars to $1.25 on state roads 836, 874 and 924, and $1 for some trucks to $5.
The toll on those highways is 75 cents for cars and 75 cents for each additional axle on semi-trucks. The authority also controls State Road 112, where the toll is 50 cents for cars and 50 cents per additional axle on trucks.
Expressway authority officials say a rate hike is necessary to keep a solid financial standing as they take out bonds to pay for a $2.8 billion, 20-year roadwork program expected to increase road capacity 61%.
Former authority chairman Allen Harper said the board must bring in more revenue to keep its good rating from the bonding agencies.
"We want to make sure we keep these bond ratings under control, which can save the public a lot of money," Mr. Harper said. "All lenders, whether you are taking out a bond on a highway or borrowing money to build a house, want to make sure income exceeds what goes out for debt service by a certain amount."
The authority assumed management of the four highways from the Florida Department of Transportation in 1996. About 95% of the authority's revenue comes from tolls.
The most recent toll increase came in July 2001, when tolls jumped to 75 cents from 50 cents for cars on state roads 836, 874 and 924. That increase was expected to generate $10 million in revenue annually, according to authority documents. Before that, tolls brought in $35 million per year, the authority said.
The authority's major projects since have included revenue the addition of two SunPass-only lanes and a new toll plaza on State Road 836 and preliminary work on 27 projects scheduled to begin by 2008.
In the next five years, commuters should see State Road 836 extended to 137th Avenue and a road connector between State Road 836 and State Road 112 to improve access to Miami International Airport.
The toll increases "can be a large amount if you look at percentage," Mr. Harper said. "But when it comes down to that actual value, it isn't very much."
Public hearings on the issue are scheduled for:
N6-9 p.m. Monday at Florida International University's Graham Center, 11200 SW Eighth St.
N6:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Salvation Army, 1907 Northwest 38th St.
N6-9 p.m. Wednesday (2/18) at Don Shula Golf Club, 7601 Miami Lakes Drive.
N11 a.m.-noon Feb. 19 at the Miami-Dade Library, 101 W. Flagler St. and 6 to 9 p.m. at the South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211th Street.