A 37-page “White Paper” outlining key objectives to overhaul the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) is scheduled for early May release by the Kendall based “Roll Back Tolls” organization, backed by the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA).
The document will recommend a public effort to change both the policies and makeup of the 13-member MDX board that first surfaced as a Kendall concern over two years ago when the county agency announced conversion to SunPass tolling on two major Kendall expressways: Don Shula Xway (SR 874) and Snapper Creek Xway (SR 878), previously freely traveled routes.
Under current tolls, Kendall commuters are assessed up to $2 or more when passing under gantries that subtract charges from a paid-in advance SunPass account or use Toll By Plate to bill them by mail with a $3 processing fee.
MDX also has approved a new policy to begin further increases for non-SunPass users which would effectively double a $2 toll to $4, beginning next July.
The White Paper will propose changing MDX operations as the next step in a move that began Mar. 11, when KFHA began a community- wide campaign with distribution of petitions “to stop toll rate hikes” and sold Tshirts to recruit Kendall-wide support from residents.
The White Paper also distinguishes increased toll rates of the past year as “taxes” rather than fees chargeable to a SunPass, “a major objection,” according to Michael Rosenberg, KFHA president.
Now being completed for online access, only the document’s cover is pictured currently on the RollBackTolls.com website that also displays a continuing source of irritation to RBT supporters.
Planted along the Shula Espressway access ramps are 24 African palms costing $7,850.15 each, the first of the species that has more recently turned up for landscaping at Kendall Drive and SW 97th Avenue.
The expensive non-Florida palms have been deemed totally unnecessary to replace native Florida palms by Carlos Garcia, RBT co-chair, who published lengthy comment in Community Newspapers in March, terming the spending on Africa-native trees “red flags” for changing county oversight of MDX spending.
An MDX source, in defending the tree policies, said the allotment of landscaping funds is based on spending 1.5 percent of any construction costs on landscaping to ensure equitable expenditure for greenery. The guideline is followed by MDX for projects throughout the county, allowing for added plantings where appropriate.
As part of a 36-page documentation furnished to the Gazette on landscaping confirms the plantings were undertaken at the Shula Expressway and other areas by Manuel A. Diaz Farms Inc. under an MDX procurement contract dated Feb. 17, 2010, followed by individual work orders specifying plantings that include 18- to 20-foot “Phoenix dactylifera Medjool’ costing $7,815.15 each.
In answer to a query about higher expense for exotic plantings, MDX furnished an email from MDX board member Felix LaSarte to District 10 Commissioner Javier Souto, noting he would bring Souto’s suggestions for expanded improvements before the executive director.
Souto’s letter dated Feb. 7, 2011 suggests that the MDX “enhance their landscaping with majestic palm trees” in the Fontainbleu, Sweetwater and Doral areas, suggesting that the landscaping include royal palms, date palms, silver Bismarck palms “symbolic of Caribbean/Hispanic Culture.”
District 7 Commissioner Xavier Suarez on Mar. 11 addressed an “open letter” to MDX board members, asking them to postpone any decision to increase existing tolls but the board voted otherwise at its Mar. 14 session.
Roll Back Tolls — initiated in 2010 by Garcia, a Kendall advertising agency owner, and Miller Myers, a newspaper advertising executive — has gained increasing support for its objections to MDX projects with both men appearing regularly to challenge MDX spokespersons at public informational meetings and MDX Board sessions.