Miami’s Mindless Highway Addiction Gets the Mockery It Deserves
Everyone agrees Miami has a traffic problem. The question is what to do about it.
So far the default answer has been highway expansion, leading to a situation where a growing number of people are stranded in gridlock.
The futility of Miami’s highway building has given momentum to advocates calling for a new way: More investment in transit, walking, and biking, combined with more compact development.
But Miami transportation officials apparently can’t conceive of a future where everyone isn’t expected to drive everywhere. They are banging the drum to build the $772 million “Kendall Parkway,” a proposed extension of State Road 836 (the Dolphin Expressway) in the county’s westernmost suburbs that would bring sprawling new development to the edge of the Everglades.
Environmental advocates warn that the project threatens the fragile Everglades ecosystem and the endangered species that inhabit it. The humans living in and around Miami won’t be spared: The highway would create more impermeable surfaces in a critical area for flood mitigation, an existential issue for low-lying Miami.
And like other highway projects that came before it, the Kendall Parkway will likely make the very congestion it purports to alleviate even worse, by spurring a new round of sprawling growth.
Nevertheless, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who campaigned on a platform of increased transit investment, is now one of the project’s biggest boosters. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is also in full cheerleading mode, lobbying via a splashy website that directs people to a form letter pledging support for the project, and wants to spend its surplus funds to finance the project. Those funds were supposed to be allocated, in part, toward transit.
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade’s 13 county commissioners will vote on whether to revise county development plans so the highway project can proceed. Highway backers and opponents are both urging their people to turn out.
Marta Viciedo with the advocacy group Transit Alliance Miami calls the Kendall Parkway “ridiculous.” The Alliance produced a website mocking the “sexy highway” as the superficial product of a transportation establishment bereft of ideas.
“It is literally the instrument that has got us to where we are right now, with people spending two to three hours a day in their car,” said Viciedo. “This is just more of the same.”
“It goes against everything a majority of the cities in the country are working toward, which is denser development, more sustainable development.”
That’s one reason why some government agencies in the region, like the city of Coral Gables and Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, have officially staked out positions against the project.
Viciedo said elected officials like Gimenez who’ve paid lip service to transit just haven’t followed up with the political leadership to create a more balanced transportation system.
“It will take a long hard investment and it will take a lot of work and some folks will be upset when we focus on transit,” said Viciedo. “And this is sort of the easy way out.”