Rebeca C. Trujillo | Editor
Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré was the keynote speaker at the Latin American Business Association’s (LABA) monthly gathering at the Biltmore Hotel and Resort in Coral Gables. William Delgado, President of the association, introduced Mayor Ferré, who proceeded, in his capacity as Chairman of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), to present the department’s plan for an ambitious expansion of the Dolphin Expressway (SR836) into West and South Miami-Dade County.
This project is part of MDX’s Open Road Tolling Master Plan. Implemented in 2006, the ORT’s objective is to improve the county’s transportation infrastructure and prepare for the future by maximizing technology, eliminating tollbooths and converting to all electronic toll collection to make commuting safer, more efficient, and capable of handling increased traffic as the community continues to grow and expand.
Maurice Ferre and William Delgado
Mayor Ferré’s participation in LABA’s April networking event comes at the heels of a controversial decision: In mid-March, MDX passed, by a narrow 7-to-6 vote, to implement a series of toll increases for 2014, on state roads 836/ Dolphin Expressway and 112/Airport Expressway. Payment of tolls will be done electronically at strategically placed gantries; therefore, all commuters will require a SunPass device and account or opt to be charged with through the Toll-By-Plate program, as cash will no longer be accepted. In addition, drivers will no longer be able to leave the roadway prior to a tollbooth and will be subjected to toll charges whether they are entering or exiting the expressway.
Former Miami Mayor and MDX Chairman Maurice Ferre
The MDX board also adopted toll policies that include future adjustments in the consumer price index beginning in fiscal year 2018 and a discount program.
Mayor Ferré told an attentive audience of LABA members, South Florida professionals and public officials, and press that MDX’s Open Road Tolling program is crucial and stressed the strategic importance of the expansion plan because of the vital role that SR 836 —or Dolphin Expressway, as it is commonly referred to— in every aspect of life in Miami-Dade County.
“In fact, 80 percent of all transactions —business, professional and personal — are done within 15 minutes of SR 836” — Maurice Ferré, former Mayor, City of Miami, and Chairman, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority
While many Miami-Dade residents question the feasibility of toll increases in these trying times and are actively calling for a halt in their implementation, Ferré added that a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute indicates that county residents each spend $800 a year already because of congestion and that the expansion will resolve the costly delays that commuters face on the roadway on a daily basis.
Barbara Howard and guest
Furthermore, he explained, the county’s share of the federal government’s $10.766 billion aid package to the Florida Department of Transportation is a paltry $3.12 billion —when there’s more than $8 billion worth of road work to be done. The approved toll increases would contribute an additional $55o million.
“When finished, this expressway will save time and money to the commuters. The question is how much do you value your time?”
Ferré also emphasized that toll collections will remain in Miami to be re-invested in MDX roadways, not as other state roads in which funds are managed by and redistributed throughout the state.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the tight vote on March 20, the MDX board is expected to revisit this issue at its April meeting]
Anel Brito and Brenda Betancourt
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