What a joke: LowT Gimenez MDX failures

Miami Herald:

Why the 836 expressway is about to get dedicated bus lanes without buses to use them


  • The bill grants Wolfe an automatic seat on the new board, but bars current directors appointed by the County Commission from joining the GMX.

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has scrapped a summer roll-out of express bus service on dedicated lanes being built on State Road 836, citing “chaos” from a state bill to dissolve the toll agency and replace it with a new entity.

Construction crews are almost ready to apply the red paint that will designate the “Bus Only” status of the modified left shoulders on the toll expressway best known as the Dolphin.

The MDX has been running “Coming This Summer” print, radio and billboard ads about the planned express line running from the new Dolphin park-and-ride lot to downtown Miami, with the new lanes letting buses bypass traffic on one of Miami’s busiest commuting routes.

But with the MDX facing a potential dissolution next Monday, the agency said it would be too problematic to hire a private bus operator to launch the service as planned by September. In the spring, the toll agency canceled plans to invite competitive bids for a bus operator, delaying the start of a procurement process designed to have MDX buses rolling by September.

“Who would bid on it if the status of the authority is up in the air?” said MDX executive director Javier Rodriguez, who expects to be out of a job after the bill takes effect as early as July 1. “You’d be in the middle of a procurement in the midst of this flux. No vendor wants to spend that kind of money to pursue a project.”

New MDX bus lanes without MDX buses would be the most high-profile casualty of the legislative war that’s on the brink of dissolving the county toll board and transferring its five expressways to a new agency, the Greater Miami Expressway Agency.

The bill by two Miami-Dade Republicans could still be vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but nobody on either side of the fight seems to consider that a possibility. DeSantis’ lieutenant governor, Jeanette Núñez, helped lead the charge against the MDX while she was in the Legislature and backers of the agency think a court fight is the only way to stop the legislation.

Buses could still roll on the lanes as planned. The legislation by Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, and Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah Gardens, empowers the “GMX” to pick up where the MDX left off, so new board members could expedite a bus launch. Miami-Dade’s transit agency also could run buses on the new lanes.

On Tuesday, Diaz brushed off the idea of procurement concerns delaying the new transit option.

“This clearly is an attempt at a political move, or they weren’t managing their finances properly,” Diaz said.

The bus lanes on the 836 would be the first effort at a dedicated roadway for transit on the expressway. The initial plan is to run the express route to downtown, with one stop at the Miami International Airport Metrorail station. While contracts for construction of the lanes were approved before this year’s legislative effort to kill the MDX, Rodriguez said the hunt for a bus operator fell too close to July 1 to proceed.

The anti-MDX bill imposes restrictions on toll increases and recommends new rebates that current MDX leaders say will starve the agency of revenue and kill a planned $1 billion extension of the 836 into West Kendall. Moody’s and other credit firms that score government borrowers for Wall Street lenders have already downgraded MDX’s credit rating, citing political interference in setting tolls.

At what might have been the MDX’s final board meeting Tuesday, members publicly seethed at the legislators behind the agency’s planned demise. “You cannot have a state that, in 2019, does this,” said MDX director Maritza Gutierrez. “It’s just disgusting.”

Rodriguez said he can’t find anyone in the DeSantis administration with a plan for administering the five MDX expressways if the law takes effect. The MDX has asked a judge to freeze implementation of the law, but the suit can’t start until the law takes effect. He predicted “operational chaos” if the bill forces a July 1 dissolution of the MDX. “There is no plan. There is no transition,” Rodriguez said “How do we make payroll?”

On May 28, he sent a letter to the County Commission warning the law would either eliminate or delay a string of planned projects, including bridge replacements along the Airport Expressway, a new ramp at Southwest 72nd Avenue on the Don Shula Expressway and a new ramp off the Snapper Creek Expressway by the Dadeland North Metrorail station.

James Wolfe, an MDX board member and a local administrator with the DeSantis Transportation Department, rejected the dire predictions of disruption from the toll agency shifting from one board to another. The bill grants Wolfe an automatic seat on the new board, but bars current directors appointed by the County Commission from joining the GMX.

“My only plan is the hope that the clock will strike midnight and everything will be the same,” he said. “We will continue on with our current obligations and day-to-day functions.”

FROM THE MIAMI HERALD: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article231956178.html
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