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Everglades Restoration Funding Could Be Imperiled By Miami-Dade Expressway Proposal, Critics Say

C.M. Guerrero
El Nuevo Herald
Morning traffic congestion heading east on the 836 bottles up near Northwest 57th Avenue on Aug. 25, 2015.

A proposal to extend state road 836 — the Dolphin Expressway — in Miami-Dade County could imperil future funding for Everglades restoration, critics say.

Members of the Hold the Line Coalition, a group of transportation and environment organizations, oppose extending the 836 expressway into wetland and agricultural areas outside Miami-Dade's urban development boundary. The proposed 14-mile expansion is intended to alleviate traffic in the Kendall area by providing commuters an alternative to Florida's Turnpike.

The extension would run near Everglades National Park and a fresh water wellfield.

"It is not uncommon to be in D.C. seeking funding for Everglades restoration projects and hear, 'What are those people in South Florida doing?'" said Richard Grosso, an attorney for the Hold the Line Coalition. "'They want our money to help restore the Everglades… but they keep doing these things that are contrary to that, increasing the federal government's costs.'"

He and other critics say the county should look at new public transit lines as a solution to traffic woes in the West Kendall area. Commute times by car from the Kendall area to downtown Miami — about 20 miles — routinely reach an hour-and-a-half or more.

A spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County mayor's office said the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have confirmed the proposal does not interfere with current Everglades restoration efforts.

The spokeswoman also said water runoff from the extension would be treated on site and would present no harm to the environment.

Last year the county's government operations committee rejected the proposal. But it's back on the agenda as Miami-Dade considers its comprehensive development master plan, with strong support from Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Commissioners are expected to vote Wednesday on whether to send the plan to state regulators for approval.

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