Miami-Dade to spread transportation stimulus money among municipalities
By Scott E. Pacheco
Miami-Dade County is to spread the wealth, at least a little bit, when it comes to federal stimulus funds.
The Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county's transportation planning arm, agreed Friday to divide an anticipated $56.2 million for surface transportation projects among county municipalities based on population.
The sentiment among board members was that a population formula was the fairest, given that there is a list of $1.9 billion in projects in Miami-Dade, of which the vast majority won't have a chance at being funded.
"We are going to have to do a lot of prioritizing here," said Jose Luis Mesa, the organization's director.
Board member Marc Sarnoff said the focus needs to be one thing.
"We shouldn't be doing anything but safety issues," said Mr. Sarnoff, a Miami city commissioner. "If we are to go city-by-city, issue-by-issue… that we take a hard look and prioritize safety issues."
The board also set priorities for $76 million in transit projects, $126 million from the Florida Department of Transportation and $5.5 million for enhancement projects, for a total of about $260 million. The total requests in Miami-Dade for those funds total about $10 billion, according to Mr. Mesa.
Board member Carlos Gimenez proposed taking 20% of the transit money — those projects are normally assigned to Miami-Dade Transit — and move it to the municipalities. The measure passed 8-4.
Mr. Gimenez, a Miami-Dade commissioner, said that he was "concerned about (that list) being everything Miami-Dade Transit projects. I would rather see something to the effect that 20% of money… allocated to other municipalities for their projects," adding that "if a city decides because of federal regulations they don't want [the funds], that money goes back to Miami-Dade Transit."
It was a modification that suited Mr. Sarnoff, who indicated funds for the City of Miami could help get trolleys onto the roads.
"I was very satisfied with that," he said. "The City of Miami is never getting its fair share."
However, some board members expressed concern that smaller cities might be hurt by having to go through the federal process to use those funds.
"It's not fair that they would have to give it up because they can't do it," said Jose "Pepe" Diaz, a Miami-Dade commissioner.
For the $126 million in Florida Department of Transportation funds, the board agreed to support the $119 million 25th Street Viaduct project as its top priority. Gus Pego, the state department's local district secretary, said the project could begin within six months.
Said Mr. Gimenez, "This should be looking at something that has a countywide impact — this is a stimulus issue. (The viaduct project) creates jobs, it creates sustainable jobs after the construction work is done."