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The South Florida Roundup

Reduced Express Lanes And Suspended Tolls Coming To Palmetto Expressway

Daniel A. Varela
Miami Herald
Since September, drivers on the Palmetto Expressway in Miami have paid tolls to drive in the express lanes. Two legislators sponsored a bill to get rid of the tolls and convert the express lanes to regular lanes.

Traffic is a perennial problem across South Florida. It costs time, and money—if you use toll roads or express lanes. 

This week, the state announced some changes to the Palmetto Expressway, State Road 826, in Miami-Dade County. The Florida Department of Transportation will reduce the number of express lanes on the 826. Tolls will also be suspended as the project gets under way.


On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson spoke with Republican state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. who represents the Hialeah area. He worked with the governor and FDOT on the changes to the 826 Palmetto Expressway.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: Why did you want to make these changes that are coming to the Palmetto Expressway?

SEN. MANNY DIAZ JR.: We have received an overwhelming amount of frustration and complaints from our constituents – not to mention that I drive the Palmetto Expressway myself and have been for the last 30 years. I have noted that since the implementation of the lanes, there's been a drastic change in congestion points, especially outside of rush hour time. And so the frustration reached a level where it almost required legislative action or intervention. I think that's where we got to this point that we are now very able to measure the frustration.

Traffic engineers and FDOT are data driven. What were the metrics involved?

We did look at the data that we received from the Department of Transportation showing that there were some improvements during certain drive times. But we also showed some delays outside of traditional drive times. And just getting on the model, myself and other lawmakers and seeing what it is versus what it used to be before the implementation, especially like on times on Saturdays and Sundays and non rush hour times during the during the weekdays, that created a concern that there was indeed an effect and possibly a flaw in the design.

Some of this was anticipated. Looking back to FDOT documents from 2011 and 2012, when the planning for these express lanes began, there was a traffic study that found good operating conditions are expected throughout the 826 express lanes systems. But the report said failing conditions are expected along some freeway segments in the general purpose lanes. Didn’t the traffic engineers foresee some of this congestion?

This is something that has been going on, like you said, [since] 2011, before I was even elected. I think they wholeheartedly believed that they were they were creating connectivity between the areas of 595, I-75 and the Palmetto Expressway in Miami-Dade. And part of the problem is that application of this in the Palmetto is very different than trying to apply it in other parts of the state that have longer distances in between cities or populated areas.

I guess the question is the traffic engineers knew that putting these two express lanes into the Palmetto would create congestion in the general purpose lanes. But it happened anyway.

Yeah, I think that is a cause for conversation about review, about how the process goes forward. Now, it’s different Department of Transportation that was in place, different secretary, different folks that were involved than we have now, who are dealing with this problem. And that's part of the function of changing administrations and how things change in government.

The transcript of this interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

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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.
Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.