East-West transit corridor might have lost a major funder
With the future of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) in legal limbo, the county is developing alternative plans for building and operating a rapid bus service known as the East-West Corridor.
The plan now for the route linking West Miami-Dade to Miami International Airport and downtown Miami along the 836 (one of five toll roads MDX oversaw) includes commitments by MDX to fund part of the construction and $25.6 million in yearly operations.
MDX’s continued existence had been in question for more than a year by October, when Miami-Dade’s transportation planning board chose “gold standard” rapid bus as the preferred upgrade for the 14-mile route.
In July 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill dissolving MDX and replacing it with the Greater Miami Expressway Agency. The composition of GMX’s nine-seat board – five county appointees and four from the state – is nearly identical to that of its predecessor. But the new law also gave Tallahassee lawmakers new veto powers over local expressway projects.
GMX held its first meeting April 9 with just four members. Miami-Dade has refused to fill its seats until ongoing lawsuits play out. The county, pointing to its unique right to self-governance spelled out in the Florida Constitution, is arguing the state overreached its legal authority by seizing control of the toll roads.
On Tuesday, during a short talk of the GMX board meeting last week, commissioners asked county attorneys and staff what Miami-Dade’s East-West Corridor options are if MDX is gone for good.
Transportation and Public Works Assistant Director Elia Lebron-Nunez said her department expects by fall to request federal funding for a third of the $418 million project. Plans show the county expects the state to cover another third of construction costs. MDX toll revenues were to have covered the remainder.
Ms. Lebron-Nunez said staff “plan to continue the coordination with the new agency” on securing that funding.
Asked if the new agency would be required to honor the county’s prior arrangements with MDX, which included a bond issue to fund the project, Assistant County Attorney Annery Pulgar Alfonso said the bonds would be transferred to the new agency, which “would have to make do on the bonding obligations.”
If MDX is permanently dissolved and GMX pushes back against funding the project, Miami-Dade is working on “a plan B and a plan C” to ensure it’s built, county Chief Operations Officer Jimmy Morales said.
“We need to see what happens just in case GMX decides not to step up to the table,” he said. “We need to have contingency plans.”
Construction of the East-West Corridor, one of six commuting routes Miami-Dade has targeted for rapid transit upgrades through an initiative called the Smart Plan, would have two phases. The first would cost $265 million and include two routes, one from Tamiami Station in West Miami-Dade to Miami International Airport, the other from Tamiami Station to the Government Center Metrorail station in downtown Miami.
Phase two would cost $153 million and add a route from the airport to a station near Dolphin Mall.
Other stops on the corridor, which is to feature dedicated bus lanes, would be at or near FIU, Mall of Americas, loanDepot Park, Melreese Golf Course, International Mall, Magic City Casino and three air-conditioned stations on the elevated 836.