Rapid-transit bus system approved for South Miami-Dade

SOUTH MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County has approved a rapid-transit bus system, making it the first time public transportation is being expanded in the area of South Miami-Dade.

The expansion comes despite demands to honor a promise made more than a decade ago to extend Metrorail to the area.

A special meeting Thursday decided on whether to agree on the 20-mile Metrorail route or the rapid-transit bus system backed by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

“Now let’s get moving so maybe we can do something really good for South Miami-Dade,” said Gimenez.

The decision was passed with a final vote of 15 to 7 but not without three hours of some heated discussion among county transportation organization board members, officials and the public.

“Representing South Dade, the preferred local alternative is rail,” said former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner.

“Unincorporated Dade has always been left behind,” added Princeton resident Rene Fante.

The Metrorail route was an approximate $1.3 billion plan, while the expanded bus system is expected to cost about 80 percent less at around $243 million.

“Now we can actually get to start doing something versus promising people things that we really can’t come to pass,” Gimenez.

Gimenez was referring to a promise made to constituents back in 2002 that called for a half penny tax to be implemented to fund the expansion of a rail into South Dade.

“People voted on this half cent sales tax because they expected to have rail extended throughout Miami-Dade County,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss at the meeting.

The promise was made 16 years ago when former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas was still in office.

Penelas tweeted a statement following the vote that read, “Yes it may be a big victory for @MayorGimenez @CommBovo but where does this leave taxpayers who have been contributing half penny for 16 years? County must end half penny subsidy for existing operations and begin repaying diverted funds to @GoCITT.”

Penelas was referring to the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust in his tweet.

“Give us what you promised: $1.8 billion. You can start and build a rail,” said resident Travis Williams.

“I think we need to deliver. This community deserves better,” said Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago. “This community cannot continue to grow and grow into the millions of people without an adequate transportation system.”

“Today, sadly, we are divided,” added Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava at the meeting.

Ultimately, the motion to pass the rapid-transit bus system did come with an amendment. If ridership reaches 35,000, the county will begin the planning process of implementing rail.

“I will not support the amendment,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez at the meeting.

“It just feels that’s impossible to really meet,” added Moss. “When you look at all of the stations that we have right now, you don’t have anything that approaches that.”

The next step is for the county to submit an application by Sept. 7 to be considered for federal funding of the expanded bus system.

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