An expensive, unnecessary planned project: widening 157 Avenue from two to four lanes (with raised median) from SW 152nd St. to SW 184th St.
This lane-doubling project is an ill-advised use of a further $11 million of CITT funds. Benefits claimed for this project, like the provision of north-south connectivity, are already available now, with no investment at all. Traffic moves without congestion the whole day, including during morning and afternoon rush hours, as can be verified by site visits. This project is in the 5-year plan presented for CITT approval today. The CITT should amend the plan to remove this project.
The Public Works Department [PWD] plans to conclude contracts this year for utility relocation and for construction. The CITT memo accompanying the 5-year plan recommends for this project, “that traffic studies be updated prior to immediate commencement of construction.” This is not a promising step. It sounds like the decision is already made and the traffic study is window dressing for starting as soon as possible. In reality, the 2006 traffic study specifically indicated comfortable traffic levels far below capacity, but that did not deter Public Works, the County Administration, and Commissioner Moss from advocating this expensive road expansion. None of the official presentations of this project to the CITT communicated that the whole west side of this road segment is agricultural land outside the Urban Development Boundary [UDB]. This bordering on the UDB makes this segment different from the already improved segments of SW 157th Ave. to the north, which pass through populated areas on both sides of the road. By omitting this information on the UDB, the presentations withhold information needed for an intelligent decision by the CITT.
It defies common sense to change now to a super road whose usefulness will depend on moving the UDB further west, a development which this project clearly advances. Miami-Dade, and especially the far southwest of the county, do not need more unfinished and unsold housing. If, sometime in the future, the UDB in this area is moved and intensive outlying development is planned, then the County already owns the land for the widening to four lanes. Also, the County could then negotiate with developers for their contribution to the cost of doubling the lanes.
Traffic counts, valid benefit/cost analysis using a social discount rate, common sense, and site visits all support not going ahead with this project at this time.
Here is a further word on site visits. In 2003, the first year of the CITT, member Lt. Col. Antonio Colmenares visited proposed project sites. In District 13, he found a road widening proposal that seemed unneeded. Commissioner Natacha Sejas, who had included the project in the People’s Transportation Plan [PTP], agreed it was a mistake. She proposed amending the PTP to remove the project, an action which was approved by the CITT at one of its first meetings.
Current CITT members and staff would benefit from visiting this project site on SW 157th Ave.
So far, no one has taken up my offer to drive anyone there at the peak morning or afternoon rush hours. Perhaps members and staff have visited there on their own and will reflect their experiences in tonight’s discussion of the 5-year plan. Or just check with me after this meeting. On April 5, I drove to the SW 157th Ave. site. At 5:31. p.m. I drove the northbound 2.3 miles (with two stop signs) in 3.25 minutes. I then drove the same southbound segment at 5:36 p.m. in 3.37 minutes. Rush-hour traffic was moving faster than the 40 mph speed limit.
As the proposed 5-year plan indicates, many key PTP promises to the public are now cancelled or delayed for decades because of the federal and local financial crises. Because of this the CITT and County staff must exercise discernment in setting priorities and in the selection and timing of PTP projects, including those suggested by Commissioners. Commissioner Dennis Moss and his staff originally wanted to widen SW 147th Ave. instead, but the affected residents objected. In the rush to define projects for the PTP, the widening was transferred to this southern portion of SW 157th Ave., but this was not at all an original priority. The CITT could amend the 5-year plan to remove this low priority project before it is even put out for construction bids.
Newer CITT members should know that in May, 2006, the CITT on a 5-3 vote first rejected the contract for the engineering study for this project. A month later, after a questionable procedure, the CITT reversed itself and approved the project on a 6-3 vote. I believe the consternation in the County Government caused by the initial rejection was not because this 157th Ave. project was crucial, but because the County Government was shocked that the CITT would reject a contract.
Please contact your commissioner and let them know this is NOT A GOOD USE OF PTP dollars!
Ted Wilde, CITT member 2003-07, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee & of the Project and Financial Review Committee
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.
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