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Mayor Gimenez presents Transportation Plan to Council

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Posted: Friday, April 12, 2019 4:00 am

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addressed Homestead City Council on Tuesday, April 9.
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Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told Homestead City Council he wants to create new county transportation financing to reduce tolls and save drivers money.

At its monthly committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Homestead City Council adopted several routine spending items before Mayor Gimenez arrived. Mayor Stephen Shelley said “the Mayor is running late as he’s stuck in traffic”.

Mayor Gimenez apologized for his lateness as he talked about the plan to create the Transportation Authority of Miami Dade (TAMD). He contrasted effects of this plan with pending legislation in Tallahassee calling for the Greater Miami Expressway Authority (GMX).

The GMX legislation is Senate Bill 898 sponsored by Senator Manny Diaz. It was referred to the Appropriations Committee on April 8. There is a companion bill in the House (HB 385) sponsored by Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila. That bill is moving through the committee process.

Mayor Gimenez said he hand-walked the TAMD proposal to Tallahassee legislators as an alternative to GMX. “We need to keep pressure on our

representatives and senators so they work for Miami-Dade County and the people who elected them,” he said.

The TAMD proposal dissolves the current Miami Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) and merges those operations with the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike (HEFT). The GMX plan also dissolves MDX but leaves HEFT under Florida Turnpike control.

This is important because the turnpike system in Miami-Dade provides seventeen percent of County turnpike income but has only eleven percent of those turnpike miles, according to the Mayor. “It’s a cash cow,” he said.

The TAMD plan proposes a twenty percent reduction in all tolls. Mayor Gimenez said Florida law requires the turnpike to raise tolls annually by the cost of living increase. He also said the TAMD would keep tolls flat for thirty-three years (the debt bond period), saving commuters $4.46 billion over time. The plan has a specific decrease in truck tolls to three axles creating an average fifty percent savings for truckers.

The GMX plan offers a twenty-five percent toll reduction on MDX roads to any resident with a SunPass, about 72% of commuters. The savings generated would be about $475 million over ten years.

But GMX also freezes toll increases until 2029. It also excludes the turnpike extension. Mayor Gimenez predicted the GMX authority would not be able to complete planned expressway work because it could not pay its bond commitments, preventing access to future bond funding.

The Mayor said TAMD would not have managed lanes which are planned by the state for portions of the turnpike. Such lanes are currently under construction in Kendall. Mayor Gimenez termed these “Lexus lanes” a toll-within-a-toll.

Kendall Parkway would be another victim of the GMX plan due to future land costs.

Mayor Gimenez is a big proponent of the plan to extend the Dolphin Expressway (SR836) as a limited access highway outside the Urban Development Boundary. Kendall Parkway would wrap western Miami from NW 12th Street to SW 136th Street. It includes a portion of improved Krome Avenue from SW 88th Street to SW 136th Street.

The Mayor believes this is the best solution for projected traffic capacity to supplement the overburdened turnpike and Palmetto Expressway. Phase one planning for the Parkway is complete. A Phase Two hearing was held in the summer of 2018.

“Kendall Parkway is one of the best projects we have,” said Mayor Gimenez. “It reduces traffic for 700,000 commuters and helps you down here by routing traffic around the turnpike.”

He also explained the differing Board memberships of the two transportation authorities. GMX would not include any elected officials.

The TAMD plan recently was changed to include Homestead’s mayor plus mayors of Miami, Hialeah, Doral and Miami Gardens. Two additional members would be from with unincorporated south Dade and two other members from

municipalities other than those already listed.

The TAMD financial plan would assume the state road debt to keep local toll dollars in the County. The Turnpike system has sufficient cash and bonding

capacity to continue. TAMD’s plan would generate an additional $1.85 billion of public transit monies over the next thirty three years, according to the Mayor.

“Today I got a resolution from the County Commissioners supporting this plan,” said Mayor Gimenez. “Please join us in endorsing this plan knowing this is an uphill fight.”

Councilmember Patricia Fairclough asked the Mayor if he had the support of the municipalities he’d presented this plan to. “You’re the first,” he responded.

Councilmember Elvis Maldonado asked about state monies and the estimated savings. Mayor Gimenez said, “These figures were vetted by the chief financial officer of Miami-Dade County who’s here in the audience, who worked on this for weeks. These numbers are real.”

Councilmember Julio Guzman told the County Mayor the proposed toll reductions were important to people.

Councilmember Jon Burgess wondered if the TPO, the county transportation planning board, would remain. Mayor Gimenez told him yes and briefly mentioned the half-cent sales tax that could not be used for maintenance or

operations.

Councilmembers Larry Roth, Patricia Fairclough and Mayor Shelley all raised the issue of county library negotiations while they had Mayor Gimenez present.

“It was probably a lack of communication but sometimes we agree to disagree,” Mayor Gimenez said. “I’m sorry but it’s not for lack of trying that we couldn’t come to a resolution. We can try again.”

Mayor Shelley informed Council that Mayor Gimenez had called him on the library issue for further discussion. “And it was before this issue!” Mayor Gimenez added.

Based on the discussion, Mayor Shelley directed the City Attorney to “prepare a resolution for further discussion on the transportation issues important to us with Homestead having a seat at the table”.

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