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Posted: Friday, March 24, 2017 1:15 am

Making South Dade a Destination

On Monday, March 20th, the “Economic Development Council of South Dade” held its first formal meeting reviewing a long term plan for organized growth of the area and it's neighboring cities. This plan has been in the making for several years spearheaded by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Commissioner Dennis Moss and Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava in cooperation with Miami-Dade County Transportation and Public Works Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan.

Today, under the leadership of local Chairman Rene Infante the program went public.

After a short social, close to 50 attendees, too many to name, were promptly seated. Project Coordinator Diane Gonzales guided everyone through the agenda. Opening remarks were made by Chairman Rene Infante who expressed that growth and development were inevitable for South Dade. Infante stressed that without planned guidelines for transportation, improved economic conditions, job creation and education, chaos would be the final outcome. The need to co-exist and cooperate as neighboring cities - Village of Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, Homestead and Florida City is a must. Infante stated that all can benefit as a group. Together we have more clout for governmental assistance on the Local, State and Federal level.

Keynote Speaker Alice Bravo, Director of Public Transportation and Public Works for Miami-Dade County took the reins and explained the course of action for this plan that was started in 2014. Two points from the initial meetings are already in process, 1) develop a marketing plan and 2) bring the community together to explore agriculture, business, neighborhoods, sports, attractions, nature, culture, national parks, entertainment, education, health, underwater excitement, thrills, trails and much more.

Bravo explained that South Dade has it all but there are limitations without proper transportation. The following facts were revealed to support the need to update our present system:

- Dade County has 2.7 million residents.

63% (1.7 million within a 2 mile radius of the transportation corridor).

- Travel time from Florida City to Downtown Miami exceeds 2 hours.

- Parking Downtown costs $20.00 or more per hour if you can find a space. Creation of new parking spaces cost upward of $25,000 each.

- Temporary relief to traffic delays such as synchronization of traffic lights could cut 25% of travel time from a 2 hour trip but as traffic increases that gain will disappear.

- Preparing to handle growing needs, Metro Rail is adding Express Service plus 300 new buses, 136 new rail cars and extending service on weekends. The proposed budget for those improvements plus future needs will exceed an estimated $116,000,000.

Before the meeting ended the microphone was passed around the room and the following remarks were recorded:

- Cutler Bay Eco Tourism is making maps available showing bike routes, resources and attractions in South Dade.

- Homestead will be building a 1,000 space, multi story parking garage that will house a movie theater, bowling alley and Virtual Reality - - Cyber Library, joining the already popular Pioneer and Historical Museum.

- School Board applied to use the bus way for bus transportation decreasing travel time while increasing safety for students.

- South Dade Chamber of Commerce hopes to promote business, tourism and improve jobs for those relocating to South Dade.

- Miami Dade College, whose enrollment is up making it the largest college in the U.S., recently added a hospitality institute and construction training program and an agricultural business institute is in the planning stages.

It was a day for big plans, but if South Florida is to meet these challenges, communities must work together in an orderly fashiont write the next chapter for our future.

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