Anthony Rodriguez: Kendall Parkway is a net benefit to the environment, Everglades

kendall parkway 2
Kendall Parkway is a “no-brainer” that will fuel South Florida’s economy.

The Kendall Parkway will provide significant traffic relief to approximately 600,000 Miami-Dade residents and facilitate commerce, business, and employment in the region. It will also provide net environmental benefits to the Everglades with the purchase, restoration and permanent preservation of more than 1,000 acres of wetlands.

Truth be told, the Kendall Parkway is the Gold Standard of multi-modal transportation because it provides mobility options for all. It delivers a highway for regional commerce needs, better commute times for daily commuters, as well as transit and nonmotorized options to a severely underserved population in West Kendall. That is why the Florida Legislature passed legislation to expressly designate this transportation corridor as a top priority for design, planning and construction.

Miami-Dade County spent years planning the Kendall Parkway, meeting with tens of thousands of area residents and businesses, and spending millions on environmental and planning studies to determine the best corridor that would provide traffic relief to West Dade, while also protecting our environment. Those studies included traffic flows, potential impacts to agriculture/food supply, and impacts to the surrounding natural environment.

After a full review of the environmental, social and economic impacts, which included the full participation by all federal, state and local permitting agencies, the current alignment was selected for the Kendall Parkway. Contrary to the reported myths, this alignment is east of 172 Avenue and completely outside the area reserved by the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers for the current Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project, known as CERP.

More than 30,000 families living in the project area submitted written endorsements of the Kendall Parkway, which as far as I know is unprecedented for an infrastructure project in the State of Florida. Those who actually reside in West Kendall know it is nonsense to suggest that the Kendall Parkway offers meager transportation benefits, when thousands of them spend more than 45 minutes every morning just to access the Florida Turnpike and commence their daily job commute out of the region. The Kendall Parkway will redefine daily traffic patterns on local roads and reduce travel times for area residents by 3-5 hours a week, giving them back approximately 20 hours a month, a fact that dispels the monumental myth of ‘meager benefits.’

In addition, the Parkway will further support transit usage in the county by facilitating the use of mass transit. Pitting transit versus other mobility modes is a fallacy. Transit requires roads and corridors, and the Kendall Parkway will provide an important one for mass transit. The Kendall Parkway also creates one of the only efficient emergency evacuation routes for residents of Kendall.

As for the alleged impacts on our natural environment, I am pleased to report that the Kendall Parkway satisfies all applicable agricultural regulations and provides net benefits to the Everglades. In fact, after decades of waiting for the feds and state to begin Everglades Restoration in this region, the county will help by acquiring over 1000 acres that are needed for CERP.

An often-ignored fact about that Parkway is that it includes an environmental remediation plan to remove an invasive tree called Melaleucas, a species that consumes so much water it turns wetlands into drylands. With the removal of Melaleucas, dry land will become wet again and resume its natural, kidney-like filtering function to recharge our aquifer, which is a positive environmental impact.

As to its economic benefits, the Kendall Parkway is a “no-brainer” that will fuel South Florida’s economy.

The construction of the Kendall Parkway will create approximately 10,000 new jobs in South Florida during construction and provide long-term economic benefits by literally paving the way for more commerce due to shorter travel times to Downtown Miami (Brickell), Wynwood, Doral, and Miami International Airport. The ease of travel will result in new, practical options for the residents of West Kendall to access goods, services, and businesses in other parts of our community.

___

Rep. Anthony Rodriguez represents House District 118, which includes part of Miami-Dade County,

Guest Author


One comment

  • wayne brody

    June 15, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Support for the 836 extension is a “no brainer” only in as much as it doesn’t bear thinking about.

    First, it won’t work. Building new highways to ease traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to fight obesity. It doesn’t take long before that extra space is fully occupied. A new highway will not reduce traffic on the existing east-west arteries (Killian, North Kendall, Sunset, Miller, etc.) The existence of the extension would in and of itself generate additional traffic; a well-studied phenomenon known in traffic engineering circles as “induced demand.” Given additional capacity, people who once avoided rush hours or carefully consolidated their errands around town will take to the roads earlier and more often; people who found other ways to get to work, like buses or carpools, will get back in their own cars, and so on until the total volume of traffic quickly returns to its original levels.

    A new highway would also induce demand by spurring development. It’s not just a matter of paving over a thousand or more acres of existing wetlands, well fields and agriculture areas. It’s the simple, fundamental Florida truth that new roads spawn sprawl; new malls and housing developments, more people, more demand, more traffic, more use of water and energy. The coming sprawl can’t be prevented with promises or regulatory fixes which can and will be ignored or revised in the years to come. Right now, at least 35 sizable parcels of undeveloped land along the proposed route of the extension and beyond the Urban Development Boundary that protects what’s left of the Everglades and agricultural areas are owned by real estate developers. Does anyone believe that they are interested in raising okra or eggplants?

    And commuters in Kendall who currently take Florida’s Turnpike, 825, 826 or 874 towards the city are in for a rude awakening if and when a new highway dumps a large steady stream of traffic into the already nightmarish junction of 826 and 836. Much of the county will suffer that pain with them.

    Second, it’s an environmental disaster. Not only would the extension create new environmental pressures, it will prevent us from effectively addressing existing ones. The highway corridor would run through the critical Bird Drive Basin, Pennusco wetlands and other parcels owned by the Department of Interior and the South Florida Water Management District, that were bought with Everglades Restoration money for the purposes of restoring the Everglades and preventing increased flooding of farms and homes in the County. The type and placement of these lands are critical to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. As the Department of the Interior’s head of Everglades Restoration drily put it several years ago, “We are concerned that the placement of a six lane, high-speed paved highway on these lands is in conflict with the legally mandated purposes for which these lands were acquired.” The County’s vague promise of some amount of unidentified wetland preservation in future can’t make up for their loss.

    Third, it will delay for years, if not kill entirely, the County’s mass transit SMART plan. By law, MDX must use between 20% and 50% of its surplus revenues to support the development of mass transit in the service area covered by the SMART plan, including Kendall. MDX has admitted that if the 836 extension goes forward, all of what would have been surplus revenue will be needed to build and maintain the extension until actual toll revenues support a bond issue.

    MDX spent many hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars to gin up support for this latest version of their plan to pave over the County, and spent millions more on insufficient and deeply flawed traffic and environmental studies. Some folks bought it because it’s a “no brainer,” and some want it because they or their supporters stand to make a large amount of money if it goes forward. But if you care about our agriculture industry and the jobs it provides, or about preserving and protecting what’s left of the Everglades, or about not making our horrendous traffic worse, or about mass transit, or about creating a sustainable, livable, Miami-Dade, than you ought to oppose the 836 extension. It’s a “no-brainer.”

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories