Miami’s Mindless Highway Addiction Gets the Mockery It Deserves

A transportation project as superficial as the Kendall Highway deserves the mockery dished out by Transit Alliance Miami on its sexy highway site.
A transportation project as superficial as the Kendall Highway deserves the mockery dished out by Transit Alliance Miami on its sexy highway site.

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.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, despite promises to invest in transit, is a chief supporter of the highway expansion. Photo: Miami-Dade
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, despite promises to invest in transit, is a big booster of the highway expansion. Photo: Miami-Dade

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.”

  • Southeasterner

    Gotta love Florida. They will be responsible for their own extinction.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/17/sea-level-rise-impact-us-coastal-homes-study-climate-change

    ““My flood insurance bill just went up by $100 this year, it went up $100 the year before,” said Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami. “People on the waterfront won’t be able to stay unless they are very wealthy. This isn’t a risk, it’s inevitable.”

    Highways in South Florida will be underwater (both environmentally and financially) long before the end of their designed life. Not only will storms and sea level rise turn Miami into Katrina leveled New Orleans every hurricane season, the cost of flood insurance will drive most people out of Florida within the next 20-30 years.

  • Joe

    This is what it looks like when a society commits suicide.

  • planrb

    While I agree the expressway is a waste of time and money, I must disagree with the comment that Miami’s default answer has been highway expansion. Both Metro Rail and Tri-Rail are examples of highways not being a default answer. Here’s a link to a map of existing and future rail service in Dade County – https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/0b/d9/c4/0bd9c428fe0547095cf6af2333858a67.gif

  • Webster

    ….we should really be having a discussion about subjugating DOT/road-building authorities *UNDER* the purview of transit authorities…

    The entire battle over surface transit priority, complete streets, bike/ped safety, etc seems largely a result of the simple fact that the institutions who build/control roads not accepting any expansion of their roles into accommodating all users beyond the automobile.

  • Rolando Peñate

    I’ll believe it when I see it break ground. Remember how this degenerated into corruption and road widening projects? http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/wlrn/files/styles/x_large/public/201612/04-22-SmartPlan.jpeg

  • Daniel

    it looks like an appendix to me

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