Palmetto Expressway motorists will have to dodge orange barrels a little bit longer.
Nearly 18 years of Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) reconstruction is expected to end in 2015 with the completion of the massive SR 836/826 interchange by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX).
The last remaining project of 12 different contracts since 1999 to widen the Palmetto was its biggest — $565 million for rebuilding the Palmetto-Dolphin Expressway interchange, not due for completion until 2015.
Meanwhile, the MDX forecasts it will take at least another six months to finish a $46.4 million leg widening the Shula Expressway (SR874) that provides Kendall commuters with a direct connection to the Palmetto.
Originally scheduled for completion by May 2013, unfinished improvements will extend that completion date until the end of this year, according to Mario Diaz, MDX spokesperson. The projects still to be completed:
• A barrier wall on the Galloway Drive bridge;
• Widening of the Sunset Drive bridge;
• Shoulder reconstruction, median barrier walls and lighting between Kendall Drive and Miller Drive, and
• Overhead structure and signage constructions.
The potential linkage to the north-south Palmetto could be delayed further, due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, he added.
Once completed, tolls will be charged for the approximate 1.5-miles between Kendall Drive and the Bird Road interchange of the Palmetto, now being collected on the Shula, rebuilt south of Kendall Drive to the SW 117th Avenue overpass where the Shula joins Florida’s Turnpike near SW 152nd Street.
In addition to its completion, a proposed new partial interchange at SW 72nd Street (Sunset Drive) is now in a planning phase but not as a part of the uncompleted Shula leg improvements, MDX advised.
As an ironic consequence, the first of 12 FDOT Palmetto Expressway widening projects rebuilt three interchanges, including the current Sunset Drive ramps as well as those at US 1 and N. Kendall Drive, completed in 1999.
When both the last Shula leg and the SR 826/836 interchange are finished, the Palmetto Expressway and I-95 will remain as Miami-Dade’s only freely traveled expressway routes, barring use of “Lexus Lanes” on I-95, or as proposed but not as yet implemented for SR 826.