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The South Florida Roundup

State Lawmakers Vote To Do Away With MDX Toll Roads Agency

Alexia Fodere
Miami Herald
State lawmakers passed a measure Friday that calls for a 10-year freeze on tolls and replace the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority with a new board.

The state Legislature on Friday passed a bill that would dissolve Miami-Dade County’s toll roads agency, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX).

The proposal, sponsored by two Miami Republicans, Rep. Bryan Avila of Miami Springs and Sen. Manny Diaz of Hialeah Gardens, would replace MDX with a new board, which would take over MDX’s five expressways. Current MDX board members would  not be able to join the new board.

The proposal heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature before it can become law. According to The Miami Herald, MDX said it plans to challenge the law in court.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Christine DiMattei spoke with Miami Herald reporter Doug Hanks and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who’s also the MDX chairman and has been fighting the Tallahassee proposal.

Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:

WLRN: Mayor Gimenez, briefly tell us your position. Why do you think the proposed toll cuts are a big issue?

GIMENEZ: The only one that's really been tone deaf here is the state of Florida. The state actually charges 60 percent of all the tolls that are charged here in Miami-Dade County. They're on state of Florida roads, not MDX roads. The state continues to raise tolls every single year. Either they do it on a yearly basis or they will wait up to five years and then roll in the cost of living adjustment for those previous five years into a toll increase.

The only entities that have actually raised tolls here since 2014 have been state of Florida roads. The problem is the state has been really good at putting all the blame on MDX because most people think that all the expressways are MDX. They're not. The Turnpike is state of Florida. The I-95 is state of Florida.

What does the rebate program do? What's coming back to these commuters who say they're spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year?

HANKS: MDX has a rebate program right now. And at one point, it dropped it when it was kind of forced to reduce tolls by 5 percent from a previous state law that passed that they're kind of suing to block. But it seems that both sides are very focused on the big victim, which could be with what the mayor calls the Kendall Parkway which is the 836 extension. It's been called a billion-dollar project. Some surplus tolls that exist now would help get the thing going.

And so what the mayor's financial  team has said is with the higher borrowing costs, and if some of these toll rebates, which the bill calls for up to 25 percent rebate for local drivers, if that could go into effect you're not going to have the revenue needed to build this huge, historic and controversial expressway extension.

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Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.