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Weston City Commission Rejects FDOT Plan For Park-And-Ride

Florida DOT
The $11.4 million park-and-ride at Weston's interchange on Royal Palm Boulevard would include express bus service to the Miami International Airport area.

The Weston City Commission Monday night rejected a state plan to build a park-and-ride meant to improve mass transit service from southwest Broward County to Miami, amid mounting public disapproval of the project.

The unanimous vote against the project rescinds the commission’s previous support of the proposal for the $11.4 million park-and-ride lot off Interstate 75 near Weston’s entrance. Members of the commission cited in their decision residents’ concerns that the project is unnecessary and could increase crime in surrounding areas.

“If this community is not ready for a park-and-ride, let a future commission decide about the park-and-ride,” Mayor Daniel Stermer said. “We listened to the community.”

The Florida Department of Transportation planned the project. Amie Goddeau, a project manager with FDOT who discussed the park-and-ride at Monday’s meeting, said the department will reconsider its plans.

The 170 space park-and-ride at the city’s I-75 interchange on Royal Palm Boulevard would feature express bus service to the Intermodal Center next to Miami International Airport where commuters would be able to connect to destinations using other forms of mass transit. Buses would take advantage of new express lanes on I-75, and there would also be a space at the park-and-ride for people to carpool. 

The project has been part of FDOT’s plan to improve mass transit service between southwest Broward and the airport. The state is planning another park-and-ride lot along I-75 at Pines Boulevard.

FDOT and proponents of the Weston project said it would reduce congestion and lessen the use of cars. It would be especially beneficial for residents who rely on mass transit to travel to Miami.

“There are 15,000 residents in the city of Weston who are between the ages 20 and 40 who are your major workers and your major commuters, and they need these transportation choices,” Goddeau said.

The project initially appeared to be on track after the city commission previously passed a resolution  supporting the project. But as residents learned more about the park-and-ride, they voiced fears that it would worsen traffic congestion and bring crime to the area as out-of-town commuters riding the I-75 express buses stop at the park-and-ride.

During the public comment period at Monday’s meeting, opponents also noted that, according to FDOT, Weston residents make up just two percent of Broward inhabitants who use mass transit for their commutes to work. They added that the park-and-ride would disrupt the "hometown feeling" of the city.

“The spirit and the culture of people who purchase homes in this city is not one that’s looking for park-and-ride,” said Joy Chambers, one of more than two dozen opponents at the meeting—many of whom wore red t-shirts. “They move here because we’re on the outskirts...we’re secluded and we’re known for our safety.”

FDOT said there has been little crime at other similar park-and-rides. And as part of the project, the state and city had plans to alleviate any congestion around the interchange with Royal Palm Boulevard by adding a third lane on the exit ramp from southbound I-75.

The department also emphasized that the express buses have wifi and “plush” seating. One of the buses sat idling outside City Hall as an example.

Still, commissioners Margaret Brown and Byron L. Jaffe said they remained concerned about crime. Commissioner Thomas Kallman reiterated that the city has no need for the park-and-ride.

But Katy Syed, a Weston resident for 12 years, disagreed. She pushed back on comments from opponents that wealthy Weston residents will never ride a bus.

“Not everyone owns a Maserati or wants to drive their Maserati to work. Some of us believe in the greater good,” Syed said.

Despite his vote against the project, Stermer said the issue of mass transit around Weston will likely be revisited as South Florida works to address traffic congestion.

“I believe we need mass transit. Hopefully, this community at some point will realize it’s an asset, not a liability,” he said. “Unless people are prepared to do that, we’re going to continue to sit in our cars.”