At last week’s 2013 Transportation Summit, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 6 Secretary, Mr. Gus Pego, was in attendance.
This was my first encounter with Mr. Pego in person and, despite the criticism we tend to launch at his district, he seemed like a really nice guy.
He was extremely diplomatic during the Summit. He didn’t seem to get defensive when audience members highlighted the contradictory and misguided actions of his agency. Generally, it appeared as if he has developed rather thick skin to cope with the criticisms launched at his agency (many of which have admittedly come from TransitMiami).
Mr. Pego’s demeanor reminded me of a political figure: an approachable, laid-back kind of guy who would be entertaining to have a beer with, but probably not one with whom you’d want to get into anything even slightly resembling a discussion of philosophy.
Nonetheless, you have to give the man credit. His job cannot possibly be easy.
I was among the (surprisingly few) private citizens who questioned Mr. Pego on the role FDOT plays here in Miami.
I asked him specifically about the proposed swap between FDOT and the City of Miami for some downtown Miami streets.
The core of my question was simple: “Why does FDOT want our streets?”
His answer was deceptively reassuring to me; it went something along the lines of:
- Typically when there’s a transfer of road jurisdiction, the municipality [in this case the City of Miami] will try to offset the costs of taking over control and maintenance.
- To offset the costs of controlling and maintaining new streets, the municipality will typically forfeit control of other streets.
- The municipality will typically request that FDOT assume responsibility of these other streets to avoid the extra financial burden.
All right . . . so . . . the City can’t carry the supposedly heavy costs of running its own streets, so it goes to FDOT asking for help. FDOT generously helps them out by taking new streets off their hands. Hmm . . .
It seemed to make sense (for about 11 seconds). But something still didn’t sit right with me. FDOT seemed way too gung-ho about the whole thing.
The last part of Pego’s response was the real doozy:
- If the City of Miami determines that they wish to keep jurisdiction of those streets [as opposed to exchanging them for jurisdiction over Brickell Avenue], then FDOT would be fine with that.
At that point, I thought to myself: Man, this guy’s not the transportation megalomaniac those weirdos over at TransitMiami often try to make him out to be. He’s just a good, straight-talking guy. That’s all. . . .
Ah, but then I found FDOT’s official position on the proposed swap. Then I realized that us summit attendees had been duped. Those words were spoken just to appease those in the crowd who applauded the question.
The truth of the matter is that FDOT does indeed want our streets.
The [Florida Department of Transportation] has recently completed a countywide analysis of potential roadway transfers [...]. The proposed roadway transfers should prove to be beneficial for the City and the State. We look forward to working with the City of Miami in a mutually beneficial relationship to effect these transfers.
Or, here’s the formal City of Miami piece of legislation in the form of a resolution. It also demonstrates how FDOT isn’t the selfless hero Mr. Pego wanted to portray it as:
Whereas, the [Florida Department of Transportation] has determined that it would be beneficial to the State of Florida to assume jurisdictional responsibility for [all the roads listed in the table below].
So . . . FDOT is not, in fact, coming nobly to the City of Miami’s financial rescue as Mr. Pego would like to have us think. Quite the contrary, FDOT is in it for it’s own good, not the well-being of the community.
We can be sure that FDOT does indeed want our streets. The real question persists, though: Why?
They’ve studied our streets, and they’ve targeted the ones they want most. They have plans for them.
What those plans are, I do not know. Mr. Pego, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter . . .
This article was edited for content on 6/13/13 from it’s original format.
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