Last Wednesday night’s public Town Hall Meeting was a huge success for the public and the community! And Roll Back Tolls is proud to have been the lead on suggesting and organizing the meeting. We would first want to thank the honorable Mayor of Pinecrest, Cindy Learner, for her time and attention. And for making Pinecrest Gardens available. It was a great setting and the staff did a great job in making sure everything went perfectly. We also want to thank former Miami-Dade commissioner, Katy Sorenson for moderating the panel discussion and meeting. Her first hand knowledge of the busway, it’s purpose and history made her the perfect person to moderate the meeting.
The strong attendance is proof that the public is not being reached effectively by MDX’s anemic out reach efforts. Indeed many of those present said that this was the first time they had any knowledge and information about the proposed project study. Even though MDX has held three “public” meetings on this project. Noticeably absent were any high level executives, engineers, staff or board members from MDX(Miami-Dade Expressway Authority).
The attendees listened to MDX representative/ lead project study consultant, Allen Brick-Turin, explain the points of the study. MDX is spending $6 million dollars to have Mr. Brick-Turin’s consulting company, Gannet-Fleming, perform this study that will be completed by 2015. It focuses on building express toll lanes along the present day busway that runs parallel to US 1 from Kendall Drive south to Florida City.
This highway would have a series of elevated overpasses at all cross sections (SW 104, 112, 136 streets, etc). Mr. Brick-Turin mentioned that the study is also incorporating a transit, non-automobile component. The project, if ultimately approved, would be funded largely by user tolls. No cost estimate for this project was given.
On the transit side, University of Miami professor Andrew Georgiadis spoke of why transit(Metro Rail, light rail) should be considered instead of a toll road for single occupant cars. In fact an overwhelming percentage of the crowd applauded when Mr. Georgiadis spoke of why we need transit instead of tolls.
The attendees were allowed to submit written questions that Katy Sorenson proposed to the panel. Most of the questions were directed at MDX. In fact, Mr. Brick-Turin spoke most of the time and at times did not have specific answers as “the study is on going and not complete”. He made it very clear that the express toll lane project is only being studied at this time and there is no decision to build on the table. Ultimately the findings of the study would be presented to the MPO (Metropolitan Planing Organization) and the Miami-Dade commission for the final decision some time in 2015-16.
In her closing comments, Mayor Cindy Learner brought up the fact that a parallel transit study should be commissioned. And that the public should be presented both options. We could not agree more! The idea of building an over 20 mile toll road for largely single occupant vehicles would be short term gain for long term pain. The busway is too valuable as a transit artery to give up any capacity on it for a automobile toll road. The public wants transit and we should figure a way to make it a reality, however hard it may be.
Carlos Garcia, co-chair
Miller Myers, co-chair