Town may institute lawsuit to prevent opening of I-75 bridges

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 0 Comments

Miami Lakes has begun to take legal action to stymie Miami-Dade’s efforts to open up two bridges west of the town by 2022 following a dispute with a traffic study that suggests no major impact on the city’s congested roadways.

The town also would conduct its own traffic study to determine any flaws FDOT and the county possibly made in its analysis while examining the traffic conditions of the town’s roads in late May and early June. 

At issue is the traffic study to determine the impact for opening up N.W. 170 and 154 streets to connect motorists to I-75 and the Palmetto Expressway, which analyzed future developments such as the Mega Mall, The Graham Companies’ properties and other developments in Hialeah and unincorporated areas.  

At a special meeting last month, Miami Lakes’ elected officials disputed the traffic study and directed Town Attorney Raul Gastesi to pursue litigation to keep the bridge at 154 Street closed since the town and Hialeah have an interlocal agreement not to open it up to traffic.      

Council members also opposed an I-75 interchange at 170 Street and passed a separate resolution to fight to keep it shut as well.

The traffic study was part of a resolution, which Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. sponsored for the proposed I-75 interchange at 170 Street, and Commission Jose “Pepe” Diaz’s request for the 154 Street bridge, with the latter project sparking a legal wrangle. 

Miami Lakes officials said the traffic study was rushed and failed to address the timing of other traffic improvement projects that might be completed after the bridges are opened, among other traffic issues.

“The traffic study wasn’t comprehensive enough,” said Town Manager Alex Rey. “Opening the two bridges, traffic gets a lot worse than better.” 

According to the traffic study, with future developments in Hialeah, Miami Lakes and outside the two cities, opening up both bridges would bring traffic relief, and based on the volume projections, the peak hour volumes over the proposed bridges for 2022 offered two options.

Option one of the study for 170 Street concluded 658 additional cars eastbound and 889 westbound during morning peak hours, and 342 eastbound and 429 westbound traffic during afternoon peak hours. 

For the 154 Street bridge, 408 additional cars eastbound and 240 westbound traffic during the morning peak hours and 331 eastbound and 253 westbound in the afternoon.
Option two for 170 Street includes 541 additional cars eastbound in the morning and 1,074 westbound, and in the afternoon, 295 for eastbound traffic and 1,183 westbound.

For the 154 bridge, 408 eastbound and 1,145 westbound in the morning, and 416 eastbound traffic and 643 westbound traffic in the afternoon.       

According to the traffic study, intersection Level of Service (LOS) analysis for signalized/unsignalized intersections are based on the amount of control delay which is a measurement in seconds per vehicle that act as an indicator of lost time, fuel consumption, frustration and driver’s discomfort at the signalized intersections.

The level of service for signalized intersections is a scale from “A” to “F” in accordance with control delay thresholds that range from less than 10 seconds to greater than 80 seconds of delay per vehicle. 

Some of the findings included the results indicate traffic levels of service deteriorating from 2017 existing conditions to the 2022 Future No-Build scenario for the east-west arterials as new committed developments come on line in the next five years and no roadway improvements are made to the area; N.W. 138 Street, which provides a major link from the Turnpike and Okeechobee Road to I-75 and Palmetto Expressway, showed the most decrease in levels of service and delay throughout the corridor. 

Slight traffic improvements can be experienced by the opening of the two bridges, given motorists much needed alternate route for all the existing and new development in the area west of I-75 that only have N.W. 138 Street as access to the freeways. 

For the Palmetto Expressway, FDOT is currently working on a design to widen State Road 826 in the future and are considering the option of raising the corridor within the limits of the area.
According to the study, the option could provide Miami Lakes with two new roadways extensions parallel to N.W. 154 Street, north at N.W. 160 Street and south at N.W. 146 Street.

The proposed projects would provide another east-west connection of Miami Lakes since N.W. 154 Street is the only east-west road available. 

If 170 and 154 streets are opened up to more traffic, Bovo promised, in February, that no trucks would be allowed on the bridges, and east bound traffic must turn left or right onto N.W. 87 Avenue instead of cutting through Miami Lakes and PSN.

Miami Lakes, however, doesn’t accept the results of the traffic study and is planning to take the county to court to settle the dispute. 

“This is garbage,” said Councilmember Tim Daubert, as he held up a copy of the traffic study. “So many flaws.” 

Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez, who organized the town’s first traffic summit two years ago with county and state officials to resolve the gridlock, said he’s disappointed with the study, and Miami-Dade’s plans to open up both bridges.

“We can’t sit here and allow 154 Street to be opened without fixing our traffic problems first,” he said. “We are going to fight this.”  

Mayor Manny Cid said 154 Street, which is an “F” rated congested roadway, can’t sustain additional vehicles. 

“Miami Lakes Drive was not built like Miramar Parkway or Pines Boulevard,” he said.

 Gastesi said the interlocal agreement between Miami Lakes and Hialeah is legally binding after the latter city annexed a huge chunk of land west of 1-75 in 2003.

He said the Florida Department of Community Affairs sued Hialeah in 2007 because the city’s development plans were not consistent with the state’s comprehensive master plan, and Miami Lakes intervened over traffic conditions, prompting the interlocal agreement. 

Gastesi said the two governments initially would try to resolve their “conflict” outside of court during mediation. 

If not, the town would proceed with its lawsuit.

A Miami-Dade official said the county was not aware of a possible lawsuit and couldn’t offer any comments since the matter may be in litigation. 

Most Miami Lakes and Palm Spring North residents support the town in its litigation against the county. 

Jerry Churchill said the bridges would bring more traffic to 154 Street and 67 Avenue.

“They would make life in Miami Lakes worse,” he said. 

Albert Aguiar, who has lived in Miami Lakes for 37 years, summed it up.
“We can’t handle anymore traffic,” he said. “It has to be another solution.”

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