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Front Page » Communities » Frustration mounts over traffic congestion, no funding

Frustration mounts over traffic congestion, no funding

Written by on May 17, 2016
Frustration mounts over traffic congestion, no funding

County commissioners are voicing increasing frustration over what might be the public’s reaction to promises that something will be done about traffic congestion in Miami-Dade when there’s still no funding for viable solutions.

In fact, Transit & Mobility Committee Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. said on several occasions in the past few months he’s concerned a time will come when the half-penny tax to fund the People’s Transportation Plan (PTP), which voters approved in 2002, could be taken away from policymakers.

The PTP program, overseen by a Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust, included 88 new miles of Metrorail; expanding bus service; adding 635 buses; improving traffic signals to reduce traffic backups; improving “major and neighborhood” roads and highways, including drainage; and providing funding to municipalities for road and transportation projects.

“It’s worrisome to me that in this building there’s not one mention or one item on our agenda that points to a transit alternative,” Mr. Bovo said during an April 13 Transit & Mobility Committee meeting. “We need to put pressure on ‘the man’ to get something done and I’m not entirely sure who ‘the man’ is, but we as a committee have to start moving forward and decide if we’re going to build something, what alternative we’re going to offer the public.”

Mr. Bovo said Tallahassee “didn’t treat us kindly in some ways,” referring to funding for alleviating traffic congestion. Of the $40 million Miami-Dade got from the state this legislative session, he said, the money for transportation is all centered on road expansion, construction inspection consultants and traffic engineer consultants.

None is for mass transit, Mr. Bovo said, adding “Tallahassee shut down our TIF legislation when we’ve already talked about how implementing TIF corridors would more than pay for transit.”

Tax increment finance (TIF) assessment districts would have property owners living near rail lines paying an additional tax for transit development. Reports reviewed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the transportation trust have indicated the new lines would enhance property values.

At the same meeting, Xavier Suarez said “the two things in addition to TIF we tried to advance in Tallahassee were meant to give Miami-Dade a say in what we pay to the state.”

He said the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority toll collections come to $200 million annually and Miami-Dade’s drivers send $167 million in auto renewal tag fees each year. This is money that should come back to the county, Mr. Suarez said, except for the $50 million owed to the state.

His initiatives died during the session.

Commissioner Bruno Barreiro mentioned how much gas tax county drivers give to the federal government and don’t get back, adding that he’s “given up on trying to bring back the dollars” and thinks instead “we need to send up as little as possible and raise money here.”

A transportation trust report says that TIF corridors pay for themselves and the county could generate a substantial amount of money for mass transit from them, Mr. Bovo said. “We’ve studied everything and nothing has happened. Synchronizing lights and making our buses more efficient – it bothers me that this is the best we can do. This is not what I signed up for.”

Mr. Bovo voted to proceed with planning for all six transit corridors for the proposed rail transit “smart plan” but joined other commissioners who said at the May 10 Strategic Planning & Government Operation Committee meeting that there’s still no funding for it.

During a discussion on committee Chairman Juan Zapata’s legislation that would urge the administration to suspend development in West Dade until traffic solutions upgrade quality of life, Mr. Bovo said years of poor planning have come “home to roost.” He cautioned that residents will not take elected officials seriously until at least one of the six transportation corridors is completed.

But there’s no funding for even one of the corridors, several commissioners said, and they asked the administration how it makes sense to go forward with a plan when there won’t be the money to build it.

Transit and Public Works Director Alice Bravo said it’s not true there’s won’t be money for the smart plan. “We’ve never implied all six corridors will be built at the same time,” she said at the May 10 meeting.

Her department is working on a financial plan that will address how all six will be constructed, Ms. Bravo said, and is consulting with a group chaired by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava that is also looking into the issue.

8 Responses to Frustration mounts over traffic congestion, no funding

  1. Josh

    May 18, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Raise the sales tax by 3 cents. Raise property taxes. Create a board to oversee the money. Make sure the money only can go to expand mass transit. Denver did it, why can’t Miami?

    • DC Copeland

      May 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      Gosh, Josh, Miami-Dade did exactly as you said: taxed ourselves strictly for new mass trans solutions and even set up a special board to oversee the money. Guess what? County commissioners subsequently changed the rules after the game began by usurping the power of the independent trust that oversaw the money so they could get their hands on that sacrosanct money to pay down the costs of running county buses. It’s all quite embarrassing but it’s all perfectly legal. At least in this dysfunctional burg. So, to answer your question, Denver is a different kind of animal and that’s why it worked there.

  2. DC Copeland

    May 18, 2016 at 7:29 am

    “Her department is working on a financial plan that will address how all six will be constructed, Ms. Bravo said, and is consulting with a group chaired by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava that is also looking into the issue.”

    Financing all six projects will take some kind of voodoo economics conjuring that not even Harry Potter could pull off. Instead of trying to do the impossible, why not start the journey of a thousand miles with just one small step: build Baylink. Once the mainland can get to the beach on weekends to spend their hard-earned dollars, it may well at least pay for that line’s maintenance. Plus, it will finally allow people to easily attend conventions and conduct business like never before. In fact, it will stimulate commerce on both sides of the bay. One suggestion is to finance and build it through a Public Private Partnership (PIP) since it appears we can no longer count on the state or the Feds to fork up the dough needed for such an enterprise. If this was a perfect world, the county would hook-up with Disney to build one of their stunning monorails connecting the elevated Miami Central Station with the MB Convention Center. Cost to build and maintain would be shared. Disney would run it and collect fees from riders. In exchange, the county and the city would give up land for the Mouse to build a convention center hotel, maybe even dock space on Watson Island for one of their cruise ships. You can read more about this idea here:

  3. James

    May 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Raise the local gasoline tax ten or 20 cents per gallon. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax. Gasoline tax.

    • DC Copeland

      May 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm


      • Adam Old

        May 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

        Miami-Dade can only legally raise by 2¢ more. But they should do that.

  4. Carlos

    May 18, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    All the brilliant minds at FDOT, MDX and the turnpike can come up with is raise tolls, add more tolls and Lexus/Lambo lanes. Every year we don’t expand mass transit in this town only makes it exponentially more expensive in future years. But, all we get for our toll dollars is more tired 1950’s ideas like widening highways and auto centric methods. It would be probably be cheaper to pay everyone $200 a month to car pool than to keep us with this madness.

  5. Adam Old

    May 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I think this article is mistaken. A TIF district is not a Special Assessment district. Nobody living in a TIF district (a CRA) pays extra taxes, it’s just that the (increase in) taxes they pay go specifically toward certain projects instead of into the county’s general fund. The new spending is meant to increase the value and taxes of the district. A Transit TIF would be a huge win for Miami-Dade.