Currently viewing the tag: "UDB"

Turnout at MDX’s highway open house last Thursday night was generally healthy.

I’d estimate a solid 80-100 people came through the doors of the West Kendall Baptist Church, eager to learn more about the big new highway project MDX is seeking to sell them on. (I didn’t stick around for the whole three hour event, so my count is unofficial at best. Let’s hope the numbers were more around 150-200 people.)

Turnout to MDX's first public "open house" on its desire to create a vast new section of the 836 highway through far southwest Miami-Dade was healthy. More public opposition will be needed to stop this monstrosity from coming to life.

Turnout to MDX’s first public “open house” on the 836 expansion project was healthy. More public opposition will be needed to stop this monstrosity from coming to life.

The layout of the public meeting was informal, and MDX should be commended for conducting the event in a way that maximized the people’s interaction with project staff: Good job on facilitating some community face-time, MDX — sincerely.

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MDX staff attempt to sell their plans to the inquiring public.

Four loosely-grouped information stations were set-up.

  • Station 1: “Purpose & Need”
  • Station 2: “Process & Schedule”
  • Station 3: “Natural Environment”
  • Station 4: “Physical & Socio-cultural Environment
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MDX presented a lot of interesting maps to suggest that a comprehensive socio-environmental, socio-economic, and socio-cultural evaluation of the project would be undertaken.

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Is MDX really looking at ways to leverage and improve public transit in the area? With all the existing (and planned) park and ride bus stations in the study area, why not study a true bus rapid transit (BRT) system for the county?

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All of MDX’s highway alternatives run through the west wellfield area, one of the sites from which Miamians extract their water from the aquifer below. It’s the source of our drinking water.

Each station had two or three MDX staff members (or staff from one of MDX’s contracted consultant firms, e.g., Stantec) on-hand to solicit residents’ thoughts and provide (typically diversionary) responses to their questions.

Staff were generally friendly. All good salespeople are.

MDX staff attempt to sell their plans to the inquiring public.

MDX staff attempt to sell their plans to the inquiring public.

MDX staff attempt to sell their plan to the  inquiring public.

MDX staff attempt to sell their plans to the inquiring public.

My underlying concern is that when I asked even the simplest of questions, or when my questions were apparently perceived as not ‘softball’ enough, I persistently got some variant of the following response: “Oh, this project is just in the planning stage. It’s way too early to be making those considerations.”

A couple of basic questions to which I received no real response.

  • Considering all alternatives, from the least to the most expansive, what is MDX estimating the costs of this highway expansion to be?
  • Considering all alternatives, how much does MDX consider the total cost of the tolls to be from the southwest to downtown Miami?

Any response that wasn’t overly deflective still didn’t register as sufficient justification for a new highway. For example:

  • Me: If the underlying problem is that nearly all of Miami’s suburbanites commute from the west to the east, why would people want to lengthen their commute by driving farther west, just to ultimately go east again?
  • MDX (paraphrased): Well . . . some people already go west onto Krome [SW 177th] Avenue to go back east again.
  • Me: Yes, a handful do, but Krome Avenue is currently set to be widened by FDOT, and that will accommodate the relatively few who do.
  • MDX (paraphrased): Yes, that’s true; Krome is to be widened; but we need to look into whether widening Krome will be enough.
  • Me: . . . 

MDX was clearly more concerned with selling its message than informing the people of that highway’s impact on their quality of life.

That message is clear: “Miami: You need another highway at the far edge of the city, either along, or somewhere beyond, the Urban Development Boundary.”

While MDX staff weren’t eager to give out any information that could jeopardize their chances of advancing their highway “dream”, they were eager to give out free Sunpass receptors (electronic toll collection devices). The way MDX sees it, we’ll be needing them.

MDX is eager to distribute as many free Sunpass electronic toll collection devices as possible. For MDX, more tolls = more highway expansion = more need to exist.

MDX is eager to distribute as many free Sunpasses. For MDX, more tolls = more highway expansion = more need to exist.

Many attendees, myself included, made their opposition to the project known via the comment cards distributed by the agency.

More public commentary will be needed to stop MDX from realizing its highway dream.

More public commentary will be needed to stop MDX from realizing its highway dream.

More public commentary will be needed to stop MDX from realizing its highway dream.

Be sure to have your voice heard while the project is still in the study stage.

Still, more voices will be needed to stop MDX from moving forward with its plans to build more highways in Miami, further constraining our city’s ability to liberate itself from its dependence on automobiles.

At last year’s Citizen’s Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) Transportation Summit, Maurice Ferré, former City of Miami Mayor and current Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) Chair, pointed to a map of his agency’s current and future projects and declared that it was MDX’s “dream” — yes, that’s a quote — to realize the proliferating highway vision embodied by that map.

A major feature of MDX’s so-called dream includes expanding the Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) down through the far southwest reaches of Miami-Dade County. One of the competing versions of the dream would put the newly expanded tolled highway along the Miami-Dade County urban development boundary (UDB).

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

 

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic / Matthew Toro. 2014.

Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary (UDB) in 2013. Source: Miami Geographic. 2014.

Tolled highways are generally great, as they create an economic disincentive to single-occupant automobile use. People often respond to the price triggers of tolled highways by turning to more affordable, more accessible public transportation (bus, train, etc.), active mobility (biking, walking, etc.), and alternative mobility (car-pooling, short-distance car-sharing (Car2Go), real-time ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft), etc.) options.

In the metropolitan context of Miami-Dade County, though, these options are either underdeveloped or are just now getting started in earnest.

The Metrorail system, for instance, serves a very limited corridor.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

Metrorail System 1-Mile Network (“Along-the-Street-Network”) 2014 Land-Use Corridor. Source: Matthew Toro. Miami Geographic. 2014.

An extensive bus system traverses most major arterial roads moving north-south and east-west, but buses carry a stigma of being either unreliable or unpleasant, or both.

Miamians are increasingly realizing that cycling and walking to their destinations isn’t as hard as our automobile-dominated culture would have us otherwise believe. Still, we’re many years away from realizing the active mobility utopia Miami has the potential to be.

In light of this shortage of viable mobility alternatives, then, one might think that the toll revenues generated by Miami’s highway dystopia would be directed toward investment in better public transportation infrastructure and streetscape amenities (e.g., wider sidewalks, proper bike lanes, etc.).

The problem with MDX, though, is that the toll monies it collects are used for increased highway development and an unwarranted expansion of roadway jurisdiction, not for the sorts of investments that would move greater Miami away from its automobile dependence.

As one of many cases in point: MDX is actively seeking to convert the only bus route in Miami-Dade County even remotely resembling true bus rapid transit, the South Miami-Dade Busway, into a highway falling under its jurisdiction, complete with overpasses and all.

Dumping more money into highways is tantamount to our community collectively signing a 50-100-year contract of servitude to stop-and-go highway hell. And that’s not to mention all of the broader economic and environmental ramifications: subsidizing the air-choking, global warming oil and gas industries; the financial crisis-inducing, and obesity-encouraging single-family real estate sprawl sector; the deforestation-promoting rubber sector in the tropics; the list goes on.

Miamians don’t have to accept this fate, though. We don’t have to sign away our city to this chain of corporate profiteers who refuse to adapt to the innovations in transportation infrastructure and human life demanded by 21st century urbanism.

The very first “Open House: Public Kick-off Meeting” for MDX’s Southwest Highway Expansion “dream” will be held in less than two weeks. This is Miami’s first real opportunity to voice its concerns about the project’s short-, medium-, and long-term impacts.

At the risk of sounding (even more?) cynical, I dare posit that these sorts of meetings are intended primarily to fulfill certain state and federal requirements to maintain minimum transparency levels, as well as to offer just enough opportunity for public input so that any future complaints made when the real impacts of such projects are felt can be expediently dismissed with the standard bureaucratic “We offered the public the chance to speak, and no such concerns were brought up then.” By then, it’s simply too little, too late.

The point is that the time to speak is now — during this preliminary Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study — not when this study materializes into an actionable plan and the construction crews are out there at the edge of the Everglades laying out a new highway.

Don’t let MDX’s highway dream become Miami’s prolonged highway nightmare. Be there and speak up!

 

MDX SR 836 / Dolphin Expressway Southwest Extension

Open House Public Kickoff Meeting

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6:00pm - 9:00pm

Miami Baptist Church

14955 SW 88th Street

Miami, FL 33196

Our Urban Development Boundary (UDB) constrains the encroachment of real estate development — typically in the form of single-family residential sprawl — into our precious agricultural and other environmentally-sensitive lands, such as the wetland and terrestrial ecosystems of Everglades National Park.

The agriculture sector contributes significantly to the local economy. As recently explained in WLRN’s excellent series “The Sunshine Economy”:

Agriculture generates a direct $700 million dollars a year in Miami-Dade County alone. The economic impact of the plowing, growing and picking of those crops is much larger.

Agricultural Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida -- 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Agricultural Land-Use in Miami-Dade County, Florida — 2013. Source: Matthew Toro

Agricultural land-uses in Miami-Dade County are found primarily in the southwest, in what’s known as the Redland Agricultural Area (often referred to as the “Redlands”).

One can also find plenty of fruit stands selling tropical and sub-tropical delights, fruits and vegetables that are sometimes virtually impossible to grow in any US region outside of South Florida.

Significant horticultural industries can be found out there too, including processing and packaging facilities for orchids and other ornamental plants.

If you haven’t already, visit the agricultural periphery of Miami-Dade County. It’ll change your whole perspective of what “Miami” truly is . . .

Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1. [Courtesy of the South Florida Collection at Florida International University, Green Library.]

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

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FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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Whoever said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” probably had the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in mind. As if the recent real estate market crash was not enough of a wakeup call for our elected leaders, commissioners recently voted to expand the Urban Development Boundary – the line that separates agricultural and environmentally sensitive land from urbanized areas – for a 9.9 acre commercial development that adds to the existing stock of vacant and undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County. Apparently, some county commissioners didn’t get the memo that their love for suburban sprawl over the past decade led to the real estate market tanking, and to the bloated county government that they now seek to reign-in.

The transportation connection: UDB expansions are being closely coordinated with an upcoming massive highway expansion along the western border of the county being proposed by MDX. The pink box in the middle titled 'Ferro' is the subject of this latest application. Thanks to Genius of Despair for the image.

They must have overlooked the 2010 EPA report, “Growing for a Sustainable Future” that described an inventory of 16,140 acres of undeveloped land within the boundary. That amounts to 6% of the land within the urbanized area of Miami-Dade County - currently vacant. With so much land within the boundary unused why are commissioners adding more land to existing capacity? Is it that they want to further depress land values and our economic recovery?  Some cite the need for jobs – oh jobs! The latest excuse for any project to be shoved down our collective throats is the promise of jobs. Want jobs? Here’s a stadium. Jobs you say? How about a humongous resort casino?

But, when it comes to the UDB amnesia sets in about the 16,140 acres of empty land within the UDB waiting for development.  Let’s put this in perspective– 16,140 acres is approximately 25 square miles. The island of Manhattan – from Battery City Park to 218 street - is only 22.96 square miles. I would say that we have more than enough development capacity to last the next 100 years and beyond without having to touch the UDB – and that’s just with our undeveloped land. Take into account underdeveloped land and we should never expand the UDB again.

Critics argue that the line was never meant to be a solid boundary – but a flexible delineation between the reach of county services and the agricultural and environmental lands beyond. There may be 16,000 acres of undeveloped land in the city– but what about the residents of this suburban neighborhood? Don’t they deserve access to strip malls and warehouses and outparcels within close proximity? What if they need closer services? This particular property is already surrounded by developed residential land – what is 9 more acres of commercial land? Attorney for the project Miguel Diaz de la Portilla said, “You’re not talking about some land that’s out in the middle of nowhere. It’s contiguous with the UDB.” Of course this argument ignores an undeveloped 40 acre tract designated for commercial development, currently within the UDB, as well as the existing Hammocks mall, both within ½ mile of this site and with enough commercial capacity to serve the surrounding community for the next 30 years.

Commissioners might argue that they shouldn’t dictate where development happens. If a willing developer wants to build a Publix on what is currently farmland – so be it. Except they overlook the fact that in expanding the extent of county services, they put us all on the hook to provide those new areas with infrastructure, police, and life safety services. That single story Publix surrounded by a parking lot uses the same services as the 8-story mixed-use building in the urban core – only it provides a fraction of the tax base forcing commissioners to make a choice between two evils: reduce services for the rest of the county, or raise tax rates.

Last week County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote a column for the Huffington Post that critiqued Mayor Gimenez’ latest county budget saying that “absolutely nothing changed in the way the county does business.” The same day that column was published he voted to expand the UDB for an application that has been repeatedly criticized as unnecessary, and for which the County’s own professional planning department recommended denial because of the reasons noted above. Our leaders cannot simultaneously seek to reduce the bloated bureaucracy of county government and at the same time expand the extent of the county services. If Suarez and other commissioners want to break the business as usual attitude in county hall they should start with the UDB.  The application has to come back to the commission for a final vote in the spring – let’s hope commissioners come to their senses and hold the line – indefinitely.

 

The bond sale will be done through the Building Better Communities project, a $2.93 billion capital improvements program approved overwhelmingly by voters back in 2004… Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said that while the projects are laudable, he opposed the measure because it relies on a commission move last September to raise the property-tax rate that goes to pay for county debt, to 44.5 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Check out the list of projects and see what you think. The list lacks details, but includes a couple of bike projects, lots of park projects, and an slew of other water/sewer, public service, community, and safety facilities.

County Commissioners are on a mission - a mission to restore some of the ‘power’ that was stripped from them during the 2007 Strong Mayor Referendum. Commissioners have been discussing a ballot measure that would help restore some of the power taken from them nearly three years ago. While the current Mayor has done little with his new power (except build us a useless new baseball stadium), they have not done anything in the last three years to suggests that they deserve their power back.  Not only do they refuse to reform the PTP and implement real transit expansion, they were equally complicit in the “Global Agreement” that led to the Stadium (and Tunnel) as Mayor Alvarez . Their consistent inability to make informed decisions for the long-term well being of this community makes them the last group to give more power to. (We should be taking more responsibilities away from them, not restoring them!)

Case in point: the endless developer funded drama to expand the UDB and ignore smart planning. The latest round of Comprehensive Plan applications are coming around for final approval. Interesting to note is the application to move the UDB to accommodate office space - an application consistently denied by the County’s own professional planning staff (staff which are paid for by taxpayer dollars).

Commissioners: Why should we give you any more power when you don’t even listen to the professional planning staff that you employ to advise you on good policy. Not only is this unwarranted expansion bad planning, it goes against our own comprehensive growth laws. Our CDMP lays out the requirements that govern expansion (setting a very low bar to begin with). This application, by the planning departments recommendation, does not even meet the minimum threshold for appropriate expansion. So why the big push  for expansion? Who are you representing - the citizen’s interests or your own?

I for one will not vote to give any power to the commission until they show themselves to be true public servants. Vote to deny this application.

The Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) is the guiding document of planning in Miami-Dade County. It sets the regulations governing land development and is the DNA of our urban plan (both within and outside of the UDB). Fixing this document is one of the most important ways that we can realize serious changes in our unsustainable pattern of development. This from the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning Department:

Every 7 years, the Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) is reviewed and updated as required per Chapter 163 of the Florida Statutes.  The EAR evaluates the progress in implementing the goals, objectives, policies, maps and text of the CDMP and recommends changes through EAR-based plan amendments, which are to be prepared and adopted within 18 months of a sufficiency review conducted by the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

Microsoft Word - Flyer-Public Participation.doc

Because the CDMP governs what can be built outside the UDB, it is imperative that the regulations governing residential development outside the line be changed. Currently the plan allows for 1 unit per 5 acres, leading to large ranch estate subdivisions. Amending the CDMP is the front line of the UDB battle. Everyone interested in holding the line should make their opinion heard at the Town Hall meetings.

I had to post the complete text of this great editorial by DDA Urban Planning Manager Javier Betancourt:

Last month’s court ruling halting the planned development of a Lowes superstore outside Miami-Dade County’s Urban Development Boundary was an important victory in the ongoing battle against westward sprawl in our community. But the more pressing issue going forward is whether residential development outside the boundary should proceed.

The answer to this question is a resounding “No.”

Now that new commercial development on the fringe of the Everglades has been rejected, urban planners along with developers and business and civic leaders should turn their attention to the chief challenge facing Miami-Dade: how to create a sustainable community without expanding our geographic footprint.

By focusing our collective efforts on revitalizing and expanding existing communities through infill development, we will make better use of our land supply, reduce congestion and preserve our region’s valuable natural resources. At the same time, we will realize a number of economic and urban planning benefits, including better connectivity between businesses and the labor force, more efficient use of our existing infrastructure and across-the-board increases in property values.

Miami was planned and developed after the advent of the automobile, so sprawl became a way of life in South Florida. Only now we are witnessing a reversal of this trend, as residents and businesses inject new life into urban centers that were long overlooked.

Some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County — Downtown Miami, Coral Gables, South Miami, Miami Lakes and Downtown Dadeland, to name a few — have been home to condensed growth that combines residential, commercial and retail development. Each of these communities offers opportunities for continued investment, and each is taking shape within the confines of the UDB.

Nowhere have the benefits of infill development been more evident than in Downtown Miami, home to our state’s largest employment center, an existing public transit system and commercial base, and a population that has grown by more than 50 percent since 2000.

The mixed-use development that has taken shape in our urban core has accelerated Downtown Miami’s evolution as a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly district. New businesses are opening, people are moving in, cultural and entertainment institutions are thriving, and street activity is picking up after hours. These trends speak to a growing demand for the convenience and lifestyle offered by urban communities and to a dramatic shift away from sprawl.

The court’s decision in May supported the need for sustainable growth. Now the business and civic communities need to act by advocating against expanding the UDB and evaluating how to maximize our investments in the emerging urban centers within the boundary.

PS. This was posted in the business section.

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Miami transit/livable city advocates may be interested in attending The Miami-Dade Urban Environment League’s  “Hold the Line” (as in Urban Growth Boundary line) picnic Sunday at Crandon Park.

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To CITT Members

From Ted Wilde, former CITT member 2003-07, Chair of Project and Financial Review

Re: May 28 CITT item to acquire land for widening SW 157 Ave. would be a poor use of scarce surtax funds

Summary. On April 16 the Project and Financial Review Committee split 2-2 on the resolution to acquire 15 properties for adding two lanes to SW 157 Ave. from SW 152 St. to SW 184 St. so the resolution is to be presented “without recommendation” to the May 28 full CITT. The CITT can reject this unnecessary project that will lead to misusing $13.2 million of surtax funds for road construction on the Urban Development Boundary. Supporters of the project state that SW 157 Ave. needs to connect to SW 184 St. Fine, it already connects completely; traffic on this road flows freely throughout the day, including during rush hours.

CITT can envision better alternatives. In the current severe reduction of government funds and of the transit projects in the People’s Transportation Plan [PTP], the CITT can preserve funds for projects directly serving transit users. Last year, Miami-Dade Transit applied rigorous cost-benefit criteria to cut back bus routes and frequencies. Doubling of the number of lanes of this part of SW 157 Ave. could not pass a cost-benefit analysis. Acquiring these 15 parcels is certainly not “a Public Necessity.”

In the face of all the transit cutbacks, the County Administration continues to seek completion of all PTP road and street projects proposed by County Commissioners. This is an insult to the citizens and also to Commissioners, as if they were so inflexible that they could not accept changes in 2009 to projects they proposed in 2002.

Funds the CITT saves now can be redirected later for future modest-cost transit efforts like bus rapid transit.

The County omitted essential information for an informed CITT decision. The documentation presented to CITT members before the Project and Financial Review meeting was highly deficient. It did not inform the CITT that the entire length of the proposed construction is on the Urban Development Boundary. The whole west side of this road segment is agricultural land; only the east side has mainly residential development. This part of SW 157 Ave with one side without residences will not generate the level of traffic of the road to the north where both sides are developed.

The previous documentation does not explain that the payments for land acquisition (cost not estimated), the $1.155 million for H & J Asphalt, and $228,228 for FP&L are only the start. A few years ago, total land and construction costs were projected at $13.2 million, a 35 % increase from the original projection of $9.75 million.

The documentation does not give the results of the traffic count on May 17, 2006, which showed that even in peak morning and afternoon rush hours, the traffic level never reached more than 55 % of “LOS 3,” the Level of Service of “stable flow,” which is the usual target for urban highways. An updated traffic count this year would be useful.

History of this project. The original engineering study for this project was voted down by the CITT in May 2006. It was reconsidered and passed in June 2006 (without having being placed on the published agenda).

Visit the site. Useful preparation for making a decision on this proposal is to visit the site during morning or afternoon rush hour. I visited the site on Thursday, April 2, 2009, at 7:58 a.m. In the 2006 traffic study, 8:00-8:30 a.m. was the peak of the rush hour. Starting on SW 157 Ave. at SW 184 St., I drove north to SW 152 St., back south the whole way, back north, south, and north again, 5 complete trips of the 2.3 mile route. I drove easily at 41 mph (speed limit 40), stopping at the two stop signs along the way. There is also a stop sign at SW 184 St., and the traffic light at SW 152 St.  At each end, I had to make a u-turn. Total time for the 5 trips and 4 u-turns was 24 minutes. Commuter drivers elsewhere in Miami-Dade would be fortunate to have such an easy ride.

In what could only be judged as an effort to stymie opposition on the most contested land use issue in the region, the Miami-Dade Planning and Zoning department has scheduled a public hearing for November 3, regarding an application to amend the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP).  The hearing, of course, entails the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary for the development of a “new mixed-use community” on 961.15 acres, also known as the Parkland Development.  The likely horizontally mixed-use development (sprawl) would incorporate residential (cookie cutter houses), commercial (strip shopping centers), institutional (schools deemed necessary by county code requirements), and civic uses (streets?).

Besides the obvious detrimental ecological concerns posed by opening up further land outside the urban development boundary, I am troubled by the timing of this public hearing – only one day before the most hotly contested presidential race to date.  The timing is uncanny for such a hot buttoned issue within Miami-Dade’s local politics.  Moreover, amid the deepest economic recession in recent history, the precipitous decline of the local housing industry, and the tumultuous wake of the sub-prime lending mortgage crisis i must wonder why anyone would push for a public hearing.  Looks like its politics as usual in Miami-Dade…

Amid all the talk about the County Commission’s massive transit failure, comes a little bit of happy news. Last week the Commission approved the purchase of approximately 100 acres of land beyond the UDB to be placed under the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program. While 100 acres is not a lot, every little bit contributes to a green belt around the County that will perpetually hold development and buffer the Everglades from existing developed areas.

To date, the County in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, the State of Florida, & other funding partners have aquired approximately 18,190 Acres of land throughout Dade County since the inception of the Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

Miami-Dade Commission Charmain Bruno Barreiro woke up this morning and decided that he wanted to see a permanent development boundary somewhere west of the UDB (and east of Naples). Matthew Pinzur writes about Barreiro’s big idea in the Herald. He wants to rethink the boundary so that there is a buffer between the Everglades and the UDB. What?? He wants to hire a consultant to decide where that line should be. Pinzur points out though that “Barreiro’s idea of hiring experts has been tried and ended up stymied by politics. Most recently, the county spent six years and $3 million on the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study, an attempt to protect water supplies that evolved into a complex 40-year plan for growth management.” You go Pinzur!

I took a stab at studying the Watershed Study expecting bad planning policy and a series of platitudes about parks and birds and butterfly’s being important. I was surprised to find an intelligent, well thought out document. The report describes that Dade County’s “two major policy choices for the future can be characterized as either a Sprawl Scenario or a Smart Growth Scenario. The long-term consequences of a sprawl scenario are enormous. This is the path that the County is on today. The Smart Growth choice will require the County to take some bold, but achievable, policy steps. The benefits of choosing a Smart Growth policy are substantiated by the Study and supported by the literature.” Sounds good, right? It gets better. The study makes policy recommendations based on the current stock of housing, along with projected population growth:

Specific Watershed Policy Guidelines:

2007 through 2025: Allocation of 100 percent of the required 102,000 dwelling units inside the existing Urban Development Boundary (UDB) through 2025;

2026 through 2050: Allocation of a minimum of 60 percent (61,000) of the required 102,000 dwelling units inside the existing UDB between 2026 and 2050″


How much more clear does this issue have to be? If you have a chance read through the document. It has a lot of great graphics and data that support land use changes within the boundary that increase density along transit corridors (new and existing). We need another UDB like we need another 8 years of George Bush. Lets try implementing the policy recommendations that have already been made. The more these commissioners talk the more irrelevant they become.

In other UDB related news, the West Kendall Community Council delayed a meeting last week to discuss a project called ‘Parkland 2014′, a Lennar development that encompasses over nine hundred acres outside the UDB. “According to the completed plans filed with the county earlier this year, the developer is proposing 1,257 single-family homes, 2,436 townhomes, 3,248 condos, and about 200,000 square feet of retail space off Southwest 152nd Street and Southwest 162nd Avenue.” Oh Jeez.

A few of this weeks news:

  • A bill to authorize a major deal between CSX Railways and the State of Florida to provide 61 miles of commuter rail around Orlando is trying to get through the State legislature today before the session ends. This would be a great move in the right direction for Central Florida. It also revives hope of a statewide rail system that could connect major urban centers and connect to local commuter rail. It is a boon for regional transit, and a great opportunity for rail lines throughout the state to really consider the benefits of public-private partnerships with municipalities as a way of providing mass transit. I for one want to see a line along the FEC corridor from downtown Miami to Ft. Lauderdale and points beyond. Then we’ll be cooking with gas.
  • Surprise surprise, we are again in the top 5 cities with the worst traffic. It’s no wonder Miami is the cleanest city in the country, nothing gets dirty if everyone stays in their car…
  • Not to beat a dead horse….I was trying to make this UDB fight a little less frustrating by being optimistic about the future of planning in Dade County when I read a couple of letters in the Herald today from Katy Sorenson and Natasha Seijas. Kudos to Commissioner Sorenson! You really get what this is about. Shame on you Commissioner Seijas! Your blatant disregard for the environment is clear from your leadership record on this issue. You claim that the UDB has been around since 1983, but according the Planning Department documents, the UDB was an implied line that was enforced by land use policies and maps since 1974. According to these same documents, based on an influx of 30,000 people a year, we have enough residential capacity until 2018, enough commercial until 2025, and industrial until 2029. I find it hard to understand why, given the best judgment of the county planning department, basic good planning principles, and negative recommendations from two different regulatory bodies, you wold move forward with this obviously backward decision. If, as you say, you are awaiting a report from the EPA, why not delay these decisions until then? Please save your platitudes for your constituents, and don’t patronize us by pointing out that the land use policy outside the UDB is just as bad as it is in. Thanks. If you really were really interested in solving these issues you would work on fixing these issues, and not touch the UDB. Here’s a suggestion, how about some creative thinking about our agricultural land and where we get our food. For example, if local agricultural interests worked to supply Dade County Public Schools with part of their dietary needs, you would find reduced shipping costs, and increased demand for local produce. I’m sure if you put your thinking cap on you could think of some win-win solutions (to quote Kordor). Incidentally, I made a little graphic that shows how commission votes were divided geographically across the county (green is against expansion and pink is pro), and what it shows is that the commissioners who voted no are predominantly in areas that are at risk of facing future UDB fights (Districts 8 and 9) or facing a backlash of overdevelopment (District 4). Commissioners Sorenson and Moss cover a great part of the developable land outside of the UDB. Interesting…UDB vote by district

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