State-county expressways war argued, back in court Friday
The battle to control five tollways moved forward Tuesday as the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) and the Greater Miami Expressway Agency (GMX) presented arguments Tuesday to Judge William Thomas in Miami-Dade Circuit Court after the county agency sued state-created GMX and its board members. A second hearing with a written statement from the judge on the case was set for Friday.
Jason Gonzalez of Shutts & Bowen, representing GMX and its board, argued that the Florida Department of Transportation is indispensable to the litigation but was not included in the suit by MDX. “They’ve got to bring them in or they got to drop this,” he said. “It would be reversible error to do anything else.”
Mr. Gonzalez also argued MDX does not own the disputed expressways. Instead, he said, the county authority controls the operations, maintenance, and contracts over the roads, but not ownership.
In a 1996 transfer agreement, MDX “acquired full jurisdiction and control over the operation, maintenance and finances of the system in perpetuity,” says the document MDX filed.
Nonetheless, MDX attorney Eugene Stearns, from law firm Stearns Weaver Miller, said the authority entered into a contract with FDOT “to acquire the East-West expressways in Dade County for $91 billion and assume the state’s debt, and the contract provides in perpetuity” he said. “From 1996 to 2019, MDX expanded the county’s expressway system fourfold and now the system has over $4 billion in assets.”
Mr. Stearns recalled a May county ordinance invoking the county’s home-rule rights and abolishing GMX. Mr. Gonzalez responded MDX and the county have no public official standing doctrine, which is a bar against nearly all executive intrusion upon judicial power. Mr. Gonzalez still must respond to the MDX suit by Friday.