Billions on toll roads, little public input

Florida: State of Tollation state of tollation

“Welcome to Florida” says the sign on the south bound lanes of I-95 as you enter the state from Georgia.  It should also remind drivers to bring their wallets, toll money and Sun Pass.   More toll roads are being built here than any other state in the country.  And our local and state officials are not asking for our input.  Do they know something we don’t know?

The word we coined for this very situation is “tollation”;  tolling with our representation.  Just like our founding fathers felt that they we being taxed without representation so goes the Florida driver.  We should not allow this and let our local and state elected officials look the other way.

Gas Tax + Tolls = Double Dipping

As more new and existing roads become toll roads our availability of non-toll road alternatives are slowly vanishing.  We’ve heard it before from tolling agencies like MDX, Miami-Dade Exressway Authority,  “If you don’t like paying tolls then take the free roads”.  The only problem with that is that those “free” roads were not free at all.   We pay gas taxes, license tag fees, auto sales taxes, etc. that paid for those “free” non-toll roads.  So as a higher percentage of roads in our state become tolled, we must realize that we are paying double for access.  Does anyone see a pattern here?

So is the state or federal government going to stop charging us gas tax every time we fill up at the pump? I think you know the answer to that one.  So if more of the roads in Miami-Dade and across the state are becoming tolled, where is our choice?  It’s either pony up and pay the toll trolls or opt for the slower surface streets and roads.

join our mailing list button

What Ever The Market Will Bear = Desperation Pricing

Should our county and state government be applying supply and demand business principles to our transportation system?  We just saw the I-95 Express Lanes in Miami Dade go from a maximum, peak rate of $7.00 to a whopping $10.50!!  Folks, forget about Lexus Lanes, we’re entering the “Lamborghini Lanes” pricing phase.  All I want to know is what is it going to cost to take the full length of the Express Lanes when the Broward portion is finished. $20, $30 to go 12 miles?  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what we’re looking at.  Who can afford this madness?  Not me.

Lexus Lanes Gone Wild

Here in Miami-Dade we have the I-95 Express Lanes.  Many people have asked how did FDOT get to put toll lanes on a Federal interstate highway and get a way with it?  After all, we paid for this highway with out gas tax dollars.  Why are two lanes being taken away from us and only made available to those willing or desperate enough to pay $2, $5 or even $10.50 to go six lousy miles?

#LexusLaneFAIL HowHighCanItGo I95 real small

This picture was sent to us by a frustrated driver back a couple of years ago while on his way to the U2 concert at the Dolphins stadium.  It shows him stuck in bumper to bumper traffic while waiting to get into the express lane, while the non-toll side of the highway is moving faster.   Most people, including me, instinctively feel that if something is priced higher that somehow it will be better, faster, higher quality, etc.  Not in this case.  The high price set by FDOT is actually suppose to act as a deterrent to using the lane.  Most people that we’ve spoken to don’t instinctively get this and FDOT has done a terrible job in not explaining this.  In fact many drivers have actually gone to Help Me Howard to demand a refund from FDOT.   What a mess!

A very simple way to alleviate this pricing confusion would be to add an “estimated travel time” display under the price so that drivers could make a better judgement of whether to use it or not.  Someone please stop me if I am making too much sense.   Most people don’t understand that the higher price is the stick and not the carrot.

Tollmagedon Is Coming to Miami-Dade!

Tollmageddon on SR 836 in Miami-Dade

Just in time for Christmas MDX, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is going to leave a little present under everyone’s Christmas tree.  The graphic above shows 17 new tolling points along the east and west bound lanes and on and exit ramps of the SR 836 Dolphin Expressway set to go live sometime in December.  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah Miami from the out of touch, non-elected MDX board of directors!

We suggest everyone call their county commissioner to let them know just how you feel about the new higher tolls coming to the SR 836 and SR 112 expressways.  After all, they are our representatives in our community.  Most of the commission and the Mayor, Carlos Gimenez have been noticeably absent from this conversation.  This is tollaion – tolling without representation.  Plain and simple.  It’s time we demand representation from our elected officials.

Carlos Gimenez for Miami-Dade County MayorIf fact our mayor, Mr. Gimenez has publicly stated that he would set up a meeting with MDX’s executive director, Javier Rodriguez, Roll Back Tolls and  himself to discuss the situation.  Since April, we have not heard back from the Mayor’s office, even after numerous phone calls to follow up.  This is un-acceptable!  Watch the video of Mayor Carlos Gimenez saying that he will schedule the MDX meeting.

We predict that there will be a mass exodus off the Dolphin SR 836 and onto surface streets and avenues as people realize that they are un-able or un-willing to pay the new higher MDX tolls.   This will create traffic congestion the likes of which we have never seen in Miami-Dade.  Particularly on NW 36th Street,  NW 7th Street, Flagler, 8th Street, Coral Way and US 1 among many others.  Is the county ready to handle the added burden, stress and wear on tear on these roads?  It’s a valid question.

Toll Lanes Are Hot In Florida.

The Miami Herald recently ran a story on how the use of tolled roads are growing throughout the state.

Read the article here.

Carlos Garcia,

Co-chair, RollBackTolls.com

A non-paid volunteer local activist

Posted in tollation, tolls | Leave a comment

Wall Street Journal Article about Growing Anti-Toll Sentiment in Texas.

Re-print from Wall Street Journal

Updated Oct. 20, 2014 2:25 p.m. ET

Driven Higher Chart of toll road mileage

Miles of tolled roads are increasing in the U.S.

DALLAS—Toll roads are experiencing a growth spurt around the U.S. as states strapped for cash look to relieve traffic congestion without raising taxes.

But a political backlash is rising in Texas, one of the states that most aggressively encouraged toll-road construction, as residents realize that many major urban freeways are increasingly no longer free.

Here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the fourth-largest metropolitan region in the U.S., with more than 6.5 million people, public and private entities have constructed one of the most extensive toll-road networks in North America—and numerous additional toll roads are on the horizon.

Transportation officials are considering converting part of U.S. Highway 75, a major north-south artery, to toll lanes. And Texas Turnpike Corp., a private company that possesses eminent-domain powers under a since-revised law, is proposing to build a highway northeast of Dallas that would be one of the only fully privately built, owned and operated toll roads in the country.

“It’s almost impossible to get around without paying a toll now,” said Bobby Tillman, a 63-year-old web developer from Sachse, Texas, who spoke against the road at a public hearing last month that filled a 1,500-seat high-school auditorium. “We pay taxes for roads and bridges, and if that’s not enough, if you can’t afford it, don’t build it.”

The toll boom is taking place in part because a primary source of highway-construction funding in the U.S., a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline, hasn’t changed since 1993. Many states also haven’t raised state gasoline taxes for decades, including Texas, which hasn’t increased its 20-cents- per-gallon tax since 1991.

While still a fraction of freeways, toll roads make up a growing percentage of newly built and upgraded roads in certain regions of the country. More than 5,400 miles of U.S. roads now require tolls, up 15% from a decade earlier, according to a 2013 report by the Federal Highway Administration. The Obama administration in April proposed allowing states to collect tolls on interstate highways, most of which are currently free. But the idea has run into bipartisan opposition in Congress.

Texas has more than 500 miles of toll roads, the majority of which were constructed in the past 10 years, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. An additional two dozen toll-road projects are in the planning or construction stages, which could add more than 300 additional tolled miles in the state, according to the agency.

Other states, such as Florida, have likewise facilitated toll-road building in recent years. “The number of toll roads in Florida has increased to meet the demands of a growing population,” said a spokeswoman with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, a unit of the state’s department of transportation.

Miami resident Carlos Garcia, the co-founder of RollBackTolls.com, said in certain parts of the state, particularly Miami and Orlando, it increasingly feels like there are few free alternatives to toll roads.

“Many people in Florida believe we face double taxation: first the gas tax and, second, tolls,” he said.

In Texas, lawmakers have embraced public-private partnerships in which a private party helps finance the construction of new tolled highways or the tolling of existing highways in exchange for receiving a share of future revenue.

“What makes more sense, raising gas taxes to build roads or giving drivers the option to pay service fees?” said Robert Nichols, the Republican chairman of the Texas Senate’s transportation committee.

Even with toll roads, Texas, the nation’s second-largest state, with more than 26 million people, faces a transportation-funding gap of $5 billion a year as it seeks to limit congestion to 2010 levels, according to David Ellis, a research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. A November ballot measure, which polling suggests is likely to pass, would let the state shift more than $1 billion a year from its rainy-day fund to its highway fund, but road experts say it wouldn’t entirely resolve the problem.

“There is not a road fairy, and you have to find some way to build these roads,” Mr. Ellis said in an interview.

However, Texas toll roads face mounting opposition, including within the state’s Republican Party, which amended its platform this year to add language hostile to toll roads. “A large segment of our party believes in having free access to transportation,” said Steve Munisteri, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

Texas lawmakers are reacting to criticism in areas such as Collin County, north of Dallas. There, the proposal to convert lanes on U.S. Highway 75 to tolls sparked a firestorm from residents who noted that Plano, Texas, would be nearly surrounded by toll roads.

“I like to say we are a gated community,” said Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach, adding that toll roads are “way up there” among issues his conservative constituents are worked up about.

Still, while toll-road proponents acknowledge changing political realities, they predict Texas and other states will continue adding toll lanes.

“The truth is that most people are using and liking these toll roads,” said John Crew, the majority owner of Texas Turnpike Corp., the entity looking to build the private road near Dallas. “If we don’t build these things, it’s not going to be pretty in a few decades.”

Write to Miguel Bustillo at miguel.bustillo@wsj.com and Nathan Koppel at nathan.koppel@wsj.com

Nathan Koppel

Wall Street Journal

nathan.koppel@wsj.com

Twitter: @nathankoppel

Posted in tollation, tolls | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Everglades Expressway Meeting

Here comes MDX again.  Now floating their idea of extending the 836 west to Krome Avenue and south to SW 136th Street.  Right against the Miami-Dade urban development boundary (UDB).

836 expantion meeting notice Eng Sept 4 836 expantion meeting notice Spanish

At this meeting the public can expect to find a lot of pictures, diagrams and happy people talking about how great this will be!   No opportunity for public comment, except a survey card, that gets filed away.  We’ve been to enough of these “white wash” MDX meetings to know what it’s really about.  The absolute minimum of PR is all MDX has to do so they can say they had the meetings.

map of 836 Everglades ExpresswayThis diagram shows four route alternatives that the MDX study is considering.  The red one would go south along Krome Avenue to an area around SW 136th Street.

MDX Project Fact Sheet

Some in Kendall have expressed support for the idea of this extension.  In particular Commissioner Juan Zapata spoke favorably about the plan at a Greater Kendall Business Association meeting in 2013.   But what Commissioner Zapata and many West Kendall Residents don’t realize is that the round trip toll from from this extension to the airport or downtown could approach anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 by the time its done and the new toll hikes go into effect at the end of this year on the 836 Dolphin Expressway and 112 Airport Expressway.

 

Transit Miami has a great post with plenty of nice charts and stats about the MDX southwest SR 836 extension.

MDX Your Toll Dollars at Work Here

 

How long will we continue to allow big corporations and special interest to decimate the Everglades?  Enough is enough!

Hope to see you on Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mayor Carlos Gimenez Answers Questions about MDX

Mayor, how come we can’t reach you or talk to you about Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, MDX?

Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez spoke at a Kendall Federation of Homeowners Association (KFHA) meeting on April 24th.  The number one question asked was regarding MDX (Miami-Dade Expressway Authority) and tolls.

In this video clip, Roll Back Tolls co-chair and co-founder Carlos Garcia asks mayor Carlos Gimenez why he was absent from the dialogue during last year’s tenuous MDX toll rate increase vote.

Local blog Political Cortadito really summed up the meeting nicely.

The mayor offers to schedule a meeting with Javier Rodriguez, Executive Director of MDX.  We sure are glad we have it on video!

Posted in toll rate increase | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fraudsters Tricking Drivers in Toll Collection Scam

Just when you thought things could not get any worse with MDX, The Florida Turnpike and Sun Pass. . . . .

FDOT and SunPass warn of Toll Collection Scam

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

House Bill 353 would limit MDX and their ability to raise tolls

Why is the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) using your toll dollars to lobby against proposed legislation in Tallahassee?

Click Here to sign on-line petition supporting legislative changes to MDX.

MDX chair, Maurice Ferré speaks at MPO about how MDX is working on killing HB 353 “with as little noise as possible”.

HB 353 pic

Call Speaker of the house, Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, and tell them you support House Bill 353 and Senate Bill 772 that would put limits on MDX and their non-elected board of directors from raising tolls and issuing more bonds.  Tell them you want the bills to be heard!

Office of the Speaker, Will Weatherford at (850) 717-5000  

e-mail will.weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov

President of the Senate, Don Gaetz, tel. (850) 487-5001

E-mail  gaetz.don.web@ flsenate.gov

State Rep. Jeannette Nunez  Phone: (305) 227-7630  or  Phone: (850) 717-5119

State Rep. Frank Artiles  Phone: (305) 252-4300   or Phone: (850) 717-5118

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Growing Opposition to Turnpike Express Lane Widening

The Results Are In

Now we learn that the mayors of The Town of Cutler Bay and Homestead are asking for a redo from the Turnpike.   This article in the Community Newspapers highlights the outreach failures of the FTE (Florida Turnpike Enterprise).

(Click the image below to read the full article)

Cutler Bay News Article on Turnpike

Why is the Florida Turnpike Enterprise continuing on their crusade to provide as little information as possible?  Do they have something to hide?  Are they worried that if the public actually knew the truth about their plans to add Express Lanes aka Lexus Lanes from Homestead to the 836 that the public would wake up and demand general purpose lanes instead of or in addition to Express Lanes?

Communication Breakdown Continues

Turnpike Loves 1972 Led Zeppelin Hit "Communication Breakdown"

Rock band Led Zeppelin Plays their 1970’s hit song Communication Breakdown. Seems like its #1 with a bullet on the FTE play list.

In fact no mention of the Turnpike Widening Project was included in their latest electronic newsletter blasted out to SunPass users in December.  You would think that such a huge project both in its scope and financial implication would merit a mention to the people who will be paying for it and using it.  But no.   Not a peep.  Radio silence continues to be the order of the day at the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.

Their use of Newspaper ads buried deep in the most obscure sections does not justify adequate communication by today’s standards.  The Turnpike cannot continue to hide behind 1970’s public outreach techniques anymore.

 Questions Remain.

At the Turnpike public meeting held in Homestead on December 11th, many questions were asked of the turnpike officials.   “Where are the demographic studies justifying South Dade residents and commuters will be able to afford the new proposed Express Lanes?”,  “Why can’t the transcripts of the meetings be put on line?”,  “Why wasn’t the Sun Pass email data base used to inform people of the meetings?” But little to no answers were given.

The emperor has no clothes – We need transit

The very idea of expanding a highway to add express toll lanes screams; “WE NEED TRANSIT”.   Is this the only idea that our “transportation” agencies and officials can come up with?  We have heard that Rapid Bus Transit (RBT) would be used on the Express Lanes.  That’s a start.  But where are the plans for the access to the RBT component?  We did not see details on this.

We know that transit will cost a lot of money.  We get it.  But, these toll roads are already costing us an arm and a leg.  And what we end up with in the long run is more urban sprawl, traffic congestion, lower quality of life, pollution, accidents and noise.

I know we can do better.

Carlos Garcia,

Co-chair, RollBackTolls.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Florida Turnpike Widening Project from Killian to Bird Road

Below is video of the Turnpike’s presentation for the Florida Turnpike Widening Project that Roll Back Tolls captured for your benefit and information.  The meeting was held on December 10, 2013.

Florida Turnpike Widening Project picture

We have many great ideas and suggestions for our tolling authorities.  One of which is to video record all public presentations so that toll payers that were not able to attend in person can watch and learn how their toll dollars are being used.   These videos should be made available on YouTube for easy viewing by anyone on any device.

Express Toll Lanes Take Center Stage

When you hear that the turnpike is going to widen the highway, what comes to mind? More lanes and faster flowing traffic, right?  Well not exactly.   Only if your are willing to pay an extra toll on top of the regular toll will you be able to use these extra lanes.    The FTE will only be widening to make room for it’s new Express Toll Lanes aka Lexus Lanes.   No new general purpose lanes will be added.   Suggestion for FTE, rename the project to “Express Toll Lane Widening Project”.   Because that’s what it really is.  We understand that Express Lanes offer an option, but we question how the FTE is communicating this to the public and county commission.

Steeped in 1972

The Florida Turnpike Enterprises’ idea of “recording” the meeting is to have a court reporter present.  Oh, and if you would like to read the official transcript you’ll have to make an appointment to go up to the Turnpike headquarters in Ocoee, FL.   Yes, it won’t be available on line.

We demand that our tolling agencies update all their communications to modern methods.  If we don’t demand this, and loudly, they will never change and will continue to occult information with  antiquated communication out reach and standards.   Whether this is  unintentional or otherwise,  there is no excuse for not video taping all public meetings and hearings.  And making all documentation and studies easily available via the Internet.

Better Communication

Roll Back Tolls has been asking that toll payers be informed via the Sun Pass email and text database since our inception back in 2010.  This database should be used to inform users of upcoming public meetings and hearings.   Additionally, it should be made available any tolling agency that uses the Sun Pass system for toll collection so that they may better communicate with their customers.

We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but we will continue harping on this issue till this becomes a reality.

Opting Out – Not In

We understand that the Florida Turnpike and Sun Pass are working to make better communication a reality.  And we thank them for taking on this initiative.  But when we hear that an “opt-in” option is being considered, we have concerns.  The most effective way to communicate is to have all options automatically selected for existing and new Sun Pass users.   They should be automatically be “opted in” to receiving e-mail notifications for:  road construction/closures, public meeting/hearing notices, toll rate increases, account info notifications, etc.  This way the maximum number of users can be reached and informed.  If users would rather not receive any or all of these notices then thy can easily “opt-out”.

This method of using the Sun Pass email database can prove to be highly efficient and cost effective as a communication medium.  It’s time has come.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Florida Turnpike | Leave a comment

FDOT Announces cancellation of Killian Express Toll Lane Direct Access Ramp to Turnpike

Carlos Garcia of RollBackTolls.com with State Representative, Frank Artiles at Oct. 3rd Turnpike meeting in Kendall.

Carlos Garcia of RollBackTolls.com with State Representative, Frank Artiles at Oct. 3rd Turnpike meeting in Kendall.

The Express Toll Lane Ramp project on Killian/ SW 104th Street has been cancelled!  We finally won one for the community!

We want to thank State Representative Frank Artiles and his staff for listening to the Roll Back Tolls and the community.  We also want to give a big RBT thank you to FDOT secretary Ananth Prasad for being accessible and listening to our concerns.  Read full statement below.

 

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) today announced the cancellation of the Killian Parkway Express Lane Direct Access Ramps. These direct access ramps are one component of the overall Turnpike Widening Project from Killian to Bird Road in Miami-Dade County.

The Turnpike Widening Project is designed to improve safety, increase mobility and relieve traffic congestion for Turnpike customers.  The Killian Direct Access Ramps would have included direct access from Killian Parkway to Turnpike Express Lanes, the coordination of signals, added protected left turn movements and providing exclusive turn lanes separated from the intersection through movements.

Secretary Ananth Prasad said, “The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) works daily with our local partners to identify projects that will create jobs and improve safety and mobility on Florida’s roadways. FDOT recognizes the importance of listening and responding to the concerns of the local communities.”

Throughout the public outreach process on the Turnpike Widening Project from Killian Parkway to Bird Road, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) received a substantial amount of public input on the Killian Parkway Direct Access Ramps. While FDOT’s traffic analysis for the Killian Ramps showed improved traffic conditions for the Turnpike system, the local community voiced concerns that the proposed interchange modifications may impact the traffic surrounding the Devon Aire K-8 School.

Representative Artiles said, “I appreciate Secretary Prasad for listening to the concerns of my community. I worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure our community concerns were addressed.”

The Killian Direct Access Ramps did not receive the local support necessary to invest the resources required to move forward and will not be included in the Turnpike Widening Project in Miami-Dade County.

Raena L. Wright

Legislative Aide

Representative Frank Artiles

13501 SW 128th Street, Suite 115

Miami, FL 33186

Turnpike notice about meeting Dec 2013

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Turnpike Public Outreach Meeting: “A Failure To Communicate”

Proposed SW 104th Street Express Toll Lane Ramp Next to Devon Aire K-8 School & Park.

Devon Aire Paren and Student holding sign against Killian express toll ramp next to school in KendallOn Oct 3rd a meeting was held in Kendall to inform residents about the Turnpike Enterprises plans to “widen” the highway south of Bird Road to Homestead (SW 216th Street).  Specifically, the meeting focused on a new “proposed” SW 104th Street express toll lane ramp on SW 104th Street (Killian Parkway) next to Devon Aire K-8 School and public park. The meeting was well attended with over 190 people present.  Also present were State Representative, Frank Artiles (District 118) and Cutler Bay mayor Edward Mac Dougall.  

Florida Turnpike Enterprise sign at OCt. 3rd meeting in Kendall.The Turnpike representatives gave their prepared presentation and then opened up the floor for public comment and questions. Many area residents, parents and concerned citizens came with the expectation that their questions would be answered.  But most were not.  Particularly noticeable was any effort to answer questions by some of the more informed participants.  At one point when local activist Jane Walker asked a direct question the turnpike representative in charge of the meeting refused to answer her saying Mrs. Walker sounded like a lawyer. Also present was Didi Jimeno, PTSA president at Devon Aire K8 School.  Her questions about student and pedestrian safety were not answered.  Mrs. Jimeno’s concerns are for the safety of school children and parents during the very busy morning drop off and afternoon pick up periods.

Five Things You Can Do to Advocate for your Community:

1.) Join the RollBackTolls.com e-mail list by using the “Join Our Mailing List” app on top right side of this website. We promise not to SPAM you or share your email with others, but we will keep you up to date on this project and others that will affect your traveling costs and quality of life.

2.)  Watch the un-edited videos of the Oct 3 meeting below and post comments on our YouTube channel.


3.)  “Like” us on Facebook, share the FB content and encourage others to do so as well.  https://www.FaceBook.Com/RollBackTolls Florida Turnpike staff checks our page regularly.

4.) Sign the petition if you agree that it is not appropriate to install a ramp near a sports field and K-8 elementary school.

5.) Encourage friends, family and neighbors to join you in these five steps.

I wish to thank Representative Frank Artiles, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad for advocating for another meeting with the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) and for the FTE representatives that attended the meeting at the Killian Palms Country Club on October 3, 2013.

We are determined to shine a light so that you can more fully understand how the Turnpike Enterprise is failing to communicate with you.

Thank you for being involved in your community.

Carlos Garcia,  RollBackTolls.com

PS Here are links to 2008 and 2013 project studies.

2008 Homestead Extension Florida Turnpike(HEFT) Widening Study

2013 SW 104th Street Traffic Study

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment