Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is proposing to state lawmakers a state-produced merger of toll road governance in his county.
Gimenez laid out proposals to merge the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and ownership and operation of the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike in a letter, obtained by Florida Politics, he sent late last week to state Sen. Manny Diaz and state Rep. Bryan Avila, both of Miami.
The letter mentions conversations they’ve been having and appears to be a plan to end longstanding political squabbles about how toll roads in the county are planned, financed, and operated, and how tolls are set — squabbles that also helped inspire legislation those two lawmakers are pushing this year.
Gimenez’s March 22 letter proposes the state creation of a new agency called the Transportation Authority of Miami-Dade, which would take over ownership and operation of both toll roads operated and under development by the expressway authority and those under the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike, which is under the Florida Department of Transportation. The new agency would be governed by local elected officials.
“Let’s merge MDX and the Homestead Extension of the Florida Turnpike and change the governance and financial structures, for the benefit of our community,” Gimenez suggested to the lawmakers. “I propose that we call this new entity the Transportation Authority of Miami-Dade.”
Reached Wednesday evening, Diaz said he has not had time to review the proposal and make any kind of assessment.
“This is heavy material; I think it needs to be reviewed before we can make any comment,” he said.
Gimenez’s letter suggests the proposal comes out of conversations with Diaz, Avila and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez.
That could be a response to legislation Diaz and Avila had filed that proposed stripping tolls authority from Miami-Dade, a point that reflected a reported heated relationship between Miami-Dade’s county leaders and lawmakers.
Diaz said there is longstanding disagreement about how the toll road agencies should be addressing traffic and tolls, and that it goes back long before the tenures of those in office today. He said Gimenez’s letter comes from talks Diaz, Avila and Gimenez have been having off and on for several weeks,
They are, Diaz said, “trying to reach a resolution that would be beneficial to our residents, and reduce tolls, and reduce bureaucracy and also reduce traffic, which is ultimately the goal.”
Gimenez’s letter suggests, “this proposal may sound too good to be true.”
The proposal calls for the new authority to be governed by the mayors of Miami-Dade County and its four largest cities [currently Doral, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Miami], plus four other local elected officials appointed by the Governor.
The letter declares that the new authority would start with a pledge to not increase toll rates based on the consumer price index for either systems’ toll roads and would also decrease the toll rates by 20 percent.
“To summarize, this proposal will result in a total of $9 billion in savings to our toll payers. It will allow for operations and upkeep of both systems, and will allow both systems to complete their current Capital Improvement Program, including needed safety projects,” Gimenez writes. “The Kendall Parkway [planned for southwest Miami-Dade County] will get built, including express bus service that will bring much-needed relief to nearly 600,000 commuters in South Dade.”