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Front Page » Top Stories » Miami-Dade advised to fast-track transportation projects now

Miami-Dade advised to fast-track transportation projects now

Written by on August 4, 2020
Miami-Dade advised to fast-track transportation projects now

Miami-Dade County decisionmakers should now be moving as many worthwhile transportation projects as possible to the starting line in order to take advantage of free-flowing federal funds, Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) Executive Director Javier Betancourt says.

The county for years has sought hard-to-get dollars from Washington to help pay for its myriad mobility projects. Now, with hundreds of millions delivered here to help keep things running – and possibly more to come – the county has rare opportunity to advance big-ticket projects it otherwise wouldn’t as easily be able to do.

“My God, some of the projects we’re pursuing are expensive, and federal dollars are very difficult to get,” Mr. Betancourt said. “Now, with the federal government really opening up its purse, we need to be ready with shovel-ready projects to be able to leverage those opportunities as they arise.”

Most of the county’s priciest mobility projects are in the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (Smart) Plan, an initiative local lawmakers adopted in 2016 to upgrade six congested commuting corridors across the county with new transit modes.

To date, only the South Corridor, which runs from Kendall to Florida City, is fully funded – $300 million split equally among local, state and federal dollars – for an upgrade to “gold standard” bus rapid transit by 2022.

Local money for the South Corridor came from the “half-penny” sales surtax voters approved in 2002 to expand transportation countywide. The CITT, created by the same ballot referendum, oversees funds generated by the tax.

Despite steady, year-over-year drops in system-wide transit preceding preceding the pandemic, as well a 66% dip in use in May (the most recent month for which number from the county are available), Mr. Betancourt said the Smart Plan still makes sense.

“Those corridors are long-term objectives that have been promised and embraced by the community for a long time and are an essential component of making sure our transit system serves the needs of the public,” he said. “We won’t see any changes to the Smart Plan other than perhaps looking at what tech may make sense in this new world.”

Miami-Dade and its 34 municipalities should also redouble efforts to make streets bicycle-friendly and encourage public and private organizations to provide related accommodations, he said – especially now, when the bike business is booming.

“We need to build bike infrastructure that’s safe, connects people to work and schools, and we need amenities at those sites so people can shower and store their bikes there, etc.,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity to really get a percentage of the population to embrace that.”

County Transportation and Public Works Director Alice Bravo agreed that some of the Smart Plan corridor upgrades – including a nearly $2 billion Metrorail expansion being contemplated for the North Corridor – could be comparably served by cheaper alternatives.

“If you can provide the reliable service, the comfort, the station amenities and economic development benefits at a lower cost, and now you have resources that you can spread to multiple corridors, that seems like a logical course of action,” she said.

Transit Alliance Miami Executive Director Azhar Chougle called the Smart Plan a “bloated and unrealistic compendium of ideas” in dire need of revision.

Mr. Chougle said his group has postponed a planned audit of the Smart Plan to instead focus on helping county transit adapt to public needs during the pandemic.

“But [the audit] still needs to happen,” he said. “Leaders need to look at these cost figures in the face and determine if this is the most effective way to meet the most needs as possible, to move the most people as possible in the most effective manner and connect them to the greatest number of opportunities.”

5 Responses to Miami-Dade advised to fast-track transportation projects now

  1. Antonio Alfonso

    August 5, 2020 at 10:54 am

    The Transportation Department for Miami Dade County is like the people running for Mayor of the county, have you noticed they are old school commissioners or ex city Mayors . All they want to do is get their high salaries and retirement plans steal some money and call it a day, this is why we have only been able to build in the last 30 years two small extensions to Metrorail and noting else everything needs a study thats cost millions and nothing is ever done of course the companies picked by our wonderful commissioners still get paid and we are out that money . If we put together all the studies that have been made in the last 30 years we would have had enough money to build the north leg of the metrorail system and problably have money left over to start on the east west corridor. sorry if i have some miss spellings i am just typing fast because iam so mad at these politicians or maybe we should call them dictators , my friends i have lived here since 1967 and nothing has changed.

  2. Gregory

    August 5, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    I can’t agree with your more Antonio. It was even seen and reported by the Herald how they gave themselves raises and put little towards rail maintenance. The metrorail, hands down, is the fastest form of public transit we have. It’s elevated, skipping the need for rail-crossings traffic, and gives a good view of where you’re headed. Yet every transit investment is for more buses, more routes, on traffic laden roads. Why drop even more multi-car length vehicles on already congested roads? Bus lanes don’t help if they’re not barricaded for just buses to access, so you’ll get just as far as traffic goes and just as fast at that. We’ve had the same rail routes for over 20 years, with the addition of the orange line for the airport. Yet communities like hialeah, doral, kendall, and so forth are suffering for the connections to the rail. Year after year expansion is mentioned, and nothing is done. Even the beach experienced a mentioning of a “light rail” across the bay. That has yet to ever see the light of day. And lastly any expansion ideas that have ever hit the ballots involved expanding the rail via ground level to cut costs. The original founder of the rail elevated it for an obvious reason. Nobody will ever be on board with MDT and these ideas if our ideas aren’t prioritized for we’re the ones riding this with no other alternatives. It’s funny for the city can spend $802 million on projects like the “signature bridge” over biscayne blvd, as if the highway doesn’t already bridge over biscayne as it is. This article talks about adding logic towards the transit needs, but where’s the logic in this, seriously? It’s like this isn’t even our city anymore. We say we need bus stops, they’ll add it where ridership is at the county’s lowest. Need more routes to help get to isolated areas, they’ll instead add more stops to existing routes. Good god!

  3. Gerwyn Flax

    August 19, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    If the County didn’t redirect the half penny tax proceeds for bus maintenance we could have built the North leg of metrorail years ago. To add insult to injury, they have attempted to derail this leg everytime it is mentioned.Why because it won’t serve their favorite jurisdictions. It is no secret. Tax payers must unite and file a class action lawsuit against the County and its comissioners both past and present, and demand that the north leg that was promised at the time, be built.
    Certain communities will get nothing unless they fight for it, while others are a shoe-in.

    • Gregory Williams

      August 20, 2020 at 1:43 pm

      I’m willing to start a petition that could advocate the lawsuit in regards to this. Where we’d like our taxes to go, it just isn’t. And you’re right it’s definitely not a secret about how this is being done. I sense more than half the county would be on board for this too. And petitions gather quite a bit of attention where need be too. What do you think?

  4. Gerwyn Flax-

    August 21, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    I think it is high time that we step up and actually make them accountable to the millions of taxpayers that have been paying that half penny tax for the last 20 years, with nothing to show for it, in terms of the rapid transit they promised.
    This administration is on its way out after having done nothing to solve the traffic gridlock. I suspect the same from the new one. Their feet must be held to the fire.