On August 30th, nearly 350 people showed up at the Palmetto Golf Course to hear information and voice their opinion about the potential bridging of 87th Avenue over the canal between SW 163 and 164 Streets. Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava organized the event to allow for the sharing of opinions on the proposed $1.9-billion project slated to begin in 2018 to alleviate north-south traffic in the area.
“As County Commissioner and a resident of Palmetto Bay, I am embarrassed to tell you that I found out about this proposed project from Facebook,” explained Cava. “We clearly aren’t getting things right when we have communication gaps like this within the County.” For its part, the usually split Palmetto Bay Council is a firm 5-0 against the bridging and has been for several years now.
The two-hour meeting allowed the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW) to present their case as to why they are pushing for the bridging to occur. They showed numbers that calculated traffic flow numbers after bridging that would reduce delays by 27%. They also said that past summer vs. school traffic seasons only showed a 7% increase in commute times, which resulted in rounds of boos and disbelief.
Heated at times, the attendees were allowed to make public comments and statements. Although the respect in the room was low at times with people shouting each other down, Palmetto Bay Mayor Flinn commented, “I think residents demonstrated to the County that we want a global traffic solution, not one that shifts the problem from neighborhood to neighborhood.” Homeowner Mary Pettit raised a point about how the County needed to look more globally at what they do. She stated the level of dense development further down south is what has created the traffic nightmare we have today and that the County was happy to take in the extra tax revenue without regard to the impact.
The issue also highlights the foot-dragging when it comes to South Dade’s mass transit efforts. The ineffective use of the transitway (formerly called the busway) is an example of name changes, but no real progress. Most believe that mass transit will alleviate a lot of the traffic flowing through neighborhood streets, which were originally designed specifically to be hostile to through-traffic. To date, no real action has been seen.
One interesting fact revealed at the meeting is that smart traffic signals are being installed on the transitway from SW 104 to SW 344 Streets during September. They’ll be programmed through the end of the year with the goal being intelligent red light changes only when a bus or authorized vehicle approaches the intersection.
After the meeting, a story about Maryland’s 16-mile Purple Line train transit project receiving $900-million in full federal funding came to light. It turns out that Miami-Dade County has never even asked for a dime of funding despite years of discussions around South Dade’s dire needs for public transportation. Palmetto Bay Councilman David Singer commented on Facebook, “Apparently, they elect leadership that know what they are doing.”
The meeting concluded with an overwhelming majority of the audience opposing the bridge. Cava called it ‘quite raucous and passionate’. We all await the County’s next move.