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Front Page » Transportation » Tap Miami-Dade Expressway Authority funds for rail?

Tap Miami-Dade Expressway Authority funds for rail?

Written by on January 26, 2016
Tap Miami-Dade Expressway Authority funds for rail?

State Sen. Anitere Flores has backed a plan to strip 25% of Miami-Dade Expressway Authority revenues and some funds from auto tag renewals and redirect it all to public transportation. County Commissioner Xavier Suarez proposed the idea last month.

“This plan provides for meaningful strides in methods of funding many crucial transportation projects across Miami-Dade County,” she wrote to Dennis Moss, chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transit Solutions Committee.

She urged Mr. Moss to support a bill now in the legislature that would redirect the money.

Mr. Suarez said last month that his plan would fund $1.2 billion in bonds. Of the $167 million county residents pay to renew auto tags yearly, $50 million goes into a transportation trust, Mr. Suarez conceded, but he said this week he thinks there is still enough in the auto-tag program to add rapid transit funds.

Mr. Suarez borrowed part of his plan from one by State Rep. Kionne McGhee: use expressway authority money in four troubled transportation corridors: Northwest 27th Avenue, US 1 from Dadeland to South Dade, Baylink from Miami to Miami Beach, and east-west parallel to State Road 836 from Southwest 137th Avenue to the Miami Intermodal Center.

“The numbers are simple,” Mr. Suarez has said. The expressway authority now collects $20 million monthly, or $240 million per year, in tolls, he said. Its debt service is $92 million and reserves are ample, he added.

“For the past three months we have collected close to $20 million in tolls, exceeding our expectations by 5.5%,” Javier Rodriguez, expressway authority executive director, said last month. “But to assume we will collect $240 million per year is not accurate. If we had that kind of money lying around, we wouldn’t have to raise tolls. I have to object to a flat fee, or a percentage. I more support the idea of identifying projects, and the cost of projects, and seeing where MDX can participate on a capital basis…”

He said the authority has partnered in every major capital transportation project for 20 years. “Of the $1.6 billion MDX has in debt, $500 million has gone to partnerships. MDX is always at the table, and my position goes beyond being its executive director, to my commitment to the community.”

At Tuesday’s meeting of the planning organization’s Fiscal Priorities Committee, Mr. Suarez said consensus had “pretty much been achieved” that light rail, rather than buses, is the way to go, especially along US 1 south of Dadeland.

“The South Dade Busway is perfect. You’ve already got the right-of-way, and if you put everything at grade, the numbers are quite doable.”

He conceded that even if the plan goes off without a hitch, the county will still be $2 billion short of solutions for all four links.

“Do you have a Plan B?” asked County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the committee chair.

“We could take 1% or 2% out of our general operating budget,” Mr. Suarez said. “I have also not mentioned federal funding.” There is $200 billion available in federal New Starts funding, he said. “We could get a heck of a start with that.”

10 Responses to Tap Miami-Dade Expressway Authority funds for rail?

  1. Edward

    January 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Good idea.

  2. s. romeo

    January 28, 2016 at 12:03 am

    $2 billion gap? The public has been robbed. I would love to see a line by line itemization to show where the $2.5 billion dollars collected went over the past 10 years.

    We need a pay as we go use of tax money. If $250 million is collected every year why must we bond and lose 50% of the money collected in the long run? Stop bonding and do things over 5-10 years vs 1-2. As of now the county wasted 10 years with little material change.

    Lastly, beware public..Politicians taking X % of MDX money for transit. This is what will happen.The county will reduce current funding to then use the MDX money for the same project. I do not trust any county employee or politician with my money. They will pilfer MDX and the public once again.

  3. Victor

    January 28, 2016 at 6:07 am

    With a $20 million purse per month, there is plenty of money to expand the metro rail, a much needed service in Miami dade. But a long with that, the trolley service, should not be free and neither should be the people mover.

  4. Andrew Terhune

    January 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Why not just have the transit users pay for what they use and the road users pay for what they use? This is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Naturally, Paul supports it.

    • Oscar

      January 29, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Why not have police and fire departments be paid for by people who use them? It’s an arbitrary division so say this is MDX and that is MDT. From a quality of life standpoint, we need to look at mobility which time and again has been proven to not improve with the construction of more roads. This isn’t robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s prioritizing revenue streams from and for mobility to use the funds more efficiently.

      • Andrew Terhune

        January 29, 2016 at 11:13 am

        The people who use police and fire – all of us – already do pay for them through general taxes, and at least as far as traffic policing goes, those of us who break the law pay directly. However, private fire departments that charge non-members have existed and could if we didn’t have public fire departments.
        Expressway use or transit use is like using water or electricity. We charge those who use them based on their use. Want to pay less for electricity? Use less of it. Want to pay less for using expressways? Drive less and take transit. We don’t make electricity users pay for use of other essential utilities and neither should we make expressway users pay for others’ use of whatever transportation options they choose to use.

        • Oscar

          January 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

          The service provided is not expressway use or transit use, it’s mobility. If we had an adequate transit system, it would be used but, as is today, it is not a viable option for the majority of residents. The expressway system, by the way, would be languishing in a similar situation had it not been for the influx of funding that built it out over the past 50 years. Imagine if they only built the Airport Expressway and waited to fund any further highway expansion with tolls from that stretch. Systems need to achieve a scale before they can be economically viable. They require investment. This is a simple reallocation of mobility dollars from a system that is built-out and cannot sustainably or efficiently continue to fill our community’s mobility needs to one that needs to grow.

  5. B

    January 28, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    How about actually using the People’s Transportation Plan half penny tax for transit expansion and fully funding to transit operations from the general fund? This was the whole point of voting to tax ourselves 14 years ago!!!

  6. John

    January 29, 2016 at 9:09 am

    This is a great idea. Funding for transportation projects nowadays is heavily biased towards roadways. This is why we need additional funding to support rail and other similar transit alternatives. Throwing money into roadways has clearly not shown to alleviate traffic congestion, so why keep perpetuating the problem?? The only way to alleviate traffic is to create alternatives for people to use cars, period! We always have traffic because the roadways are undercapacity or because under construction, either way its a neverending vicious cycle that we must strive to get away for the sake of our quality of life. Were stuck in traffic hours a day, and that in itself translates to loss of revenue and time.

  7. Victor

    January 29, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    We have a traffic problem due to several issues, but the main reason why we have this problem is due to lack of vision by city leaders.
    -Streets are too narrow, compared to other cities in Florida, like Orlando, Tampa and even Ft laudedale to some extent. Miami streets are too narrow to accommodate the volume of traffic it has. Leaders failed to plan ahead.

    -lack of reliable public transportation. Buses that don’t run late at night, a train that only goes to the mall and airport. Train doesn’t run all night. Public transportation will not, diminish traffic by its self, but the lack off, can increase traffic.

    -Use of tolls, since the increase implementation of tolls on our highways, city streets have become more congested by people not wanting to pay tolls. Tolls have a direct effect on city streets.

    A half cent tax was levy on miami residents that was supposed to ho to rail. Where is that money?