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Florida regained control of Miami-Dade County toll roads. What now?

A Leon County court decision went in favor of state-controlled GMX as Miami-Dade’s MDX board vows to fight on in the battle over who controls five county toll roads.
The Miami Herald
The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, or MDX, was created to establish local control of toll revenue.

In the 1990s, the state of Florida gave Miami-Dade County control of the county's busiest toll roads. That's when the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, or MDX, was created, and it’s been managing expressways — and collecting their tolls — ever since.

Among the tolled roads are the Airport Expressway (SR 112), the Dolphin (SR 836), Don Shula (SR 874), Gratigny (SR 924), and Snapper Creek (SR 878).

MDX's management of those roads stopped this month after the state won a court battle to regain control of them. A new state authority called the Greater Miami Expressway Agency, or GMX, now oversees Miami-Dade's expressways.

The end of a years-long fight

Drivers today are used to toll roads, express lanes, and construction in Miami, and Miami-Dade County. But that wasn't always the case.

In 2014, MDX doubled its toll enforcement — a decision that made a lot of people angry, says Danny Rivero, WLRN's investigative reporter.

That year, he said, people saw their commutes driving from Kendall to downtown Miami, or Hialeah to downtown Miami, double in tolls.

"We're kind of used to it now," Rivero said, speaking on The South Florida Roundup. "But at the time, it did feel like overreach."

Three years later, in 2017, Jeanette Nunez, who is now Florida's lieutenant governor, pushed through a law saying Miami-Dade County had to reduce the tolls. They didn't.

"They [MDX] added these express lanes, for congestion pricing, taking away regular lanes for traffic," Rivero said.

Lanes, he says, which made congestion worse.

"People didn't want to pay more money to use those lanes. And these things kind of escalated. It led to the point where state leaders started saying, 'Hey, you're not listening. You're doing bad by the people in Miami-Dade County. We're going to take over right now.'"

Then, in 2019, the state took over MDX in its current form, Rivero says, which only included Miami-Dade County.

"Miami-Dade has home rule. So legally, they made the argument that because they have the strongest home rule authority of any county and it is actually in law that the county can dissolve state agencies here if they only operate in Miami-Dade County."

So Miami-Dade dissolved a new board and kept MDX. In response, the state added a strip of dirt road in Monroe County — a road that will likely never be developed.

"It's a power play — a raw power play," Rivero said. "There is some territorialism from local government. They're saying we don't want to give it back. We don't want the state to do this because we're doing it now and the state's taking the position, well, you're doing it bad, so we'll do better."

Will this affect Miami-Dade drivers?

"Not really," Rivero says. "You're probably not going to be very affected by this. What it is at the end of it, this is raw power and politics. This is a tug of war between the state and the local governments."

"I don't think commuters care who the contractors are, but politicians care who the contractors are."

On the South Florida Roundup, we also discussed plans to protect Miami's coastline from storm surge and Nicaragua’s dictatorship outlawing the Jesuits.

Listen to the full episode here.

Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.
Katie Lepri Cohen is WLRN's engagement editor. Her work involves distributing and amplifying WLRN's journalism on social media, managing WLRN's social accounts, writing and editing newsletters, and leading audience-listening efforts. Reach out via email at klcohen@wlrnnews.org.
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