Electronic tolls will begin soon for Greater Kendall motorists

Kendall Federation of Homeowners

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority visits the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations Monday night to discuss the new Open Toll Tolling on SR 874 and SR 878. Tere Garcia, PIO for the General Engineering Consultant (HNTB) for MDX speaks about the changes that will take place July 17th.

Hey, Kendall motorists, get ready for Open Road Tolling, a system that charges drivers automatically without making them stop or slow down.

Beginning July 17, motorists will encounter two tolls on State Road 874 costing 25 cents each, one toll north of the interchange on State Road 874 costing 50 cents and two tolls on State Road 878 costing 25 cents each.

At a meeting of the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA) on Monday night, representatives from the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) explained the process and gave away free Mini SunPasses to attendees.

Some in the audience welcomed the new toll system, while others refuted it.

Currently, one toll stands south of Killian Parkway on SR 874 that costs drivers $1 with a SunPass. The new Open Road Tolling takes that $1 and divides it into segments based on distance.

“We have what is called an open system, the Turnpike is a closed system,” explained Tere Garcia, a spokeswoman for HNTB Corp., the general engineering consultant for MDX. “So we are closing it, not to charge more, but to divide that cost over different segments corresponding to the distance you drive.”

Example: If you travel the entire stretch of SR 874, there will be no change to your cost. But if you drive on a piece of 874, you will pay for that distance. If you drive only on SR 878, it will cost you 50 cents.

Before the establishment of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority in 1996, all the toll money collected in Miami-Dade County would go to Tallahassee and be redistributed. Miami-Dade was given a percentage back.

Now all the money collected by MDX goes back into the county system for building and maintaining the roads, they said.

The roads covered by MDX include: State roads 924 Gratigny Parkway, which began Open Road Tolling on Monday; 874 Don Shula Expressway; 878 Snapper Creek Expressway; 112 Airport Expressway; and 836 Dolphin Expressway.

According to MDX, about a million commuters use the roads under its jurisdiction. But only 45 percent of users pay tolls.

MDX believes this system will be more fair, as well as safer, faster, and cleaner. According to MDX, traditional toll plazas can process about 400 cars per hour in the cash lanes and 1200 to 1800 cars per hour in the SunPass lane. With Open Road Tolls, where there is no slowing down or stopping, 2200 cars per hour can travel through the tolls. And because there is no longer a stop-and-go element to driving on the expressways, less fuel will be used and less toxins emitted.

“These are preliminary numbers, but system-wide [when Open Road Tolling is complete] there will be a savings of about half-a-million gallons of fuel,” Garcia said. “If we multiply that by the cost of gas, that is a savings of $1.4 million. As far as cleaner, there is a savings of about 1600 metric tons of toxic emissions.”

They say it will be safer because drivers will no longer have to slow down or change lanes.

But while the experts touted its advantages, some in the audience were skeptical.

“A lot of the residents are concerned about the portion of the Snapper Creek that they don’t pay for now, that they use on a regular basis,” said Miriam Mimi Planas, a candidate for the Miami-Dade County Commission District 10 seat. “For them, it’s going to be an extra expense.”

Mario A. Diaz, a spokesman for MDX, said a frequent user discount is being discussed. Currently, 80 percent of motorists during off-peak times use the SunPass and 85 percent during rush hour.

Once everything is in place, MDX will look at the system as a whole to see how they can give back to the customers who are frequently use their roads, he said.

Some in West Kendall said they thought the new tolling system was more fair. People in East Kendall have been getting a free ride for a long time, and now West Kendall motorists, who use the longest stretch of the roads, won’t be paying for everyone, said Lawrence Percival, executive vice president of the KFHA.

A few objected, saying the new tolls were new taxes being imposed on them without representation.

“You talk about the money stays in this community, I want the money to stay in my wallet,” said Lee Zimmerman, a 30-year resident of West Kendall. “I’ll be driving another route. I won’t be taking those roads.”

“People believe that other roads are free,” Garcia said. “Other roads are not free. You pay with your gas taxes, with your property taxes, etc.”

“Tolls are user fees. If you use the roads, you pay. If you don’t use them, you don’t pay.”

Said Percival: “We have to have some mechanism for paying for our roads; to build them and maintain them. Look at all the beautification. You don’t see that on the Turnpike.”

What you need to know:

  • Starting July 17, the new tolls will be in effect on the Don Shula SR 874 and Snapper Creek SR 878.
  • There will be two 25-cents tolls on Snapper Creek SR 878.
  • There will be two 25-cents tolls on SR 874 south to the Florida’s Turnpike and one
  • 50-cents toll going north to the Palmetto Expressway SR 826.
  • The Toll-by-Plate will record your license plate and send you a monthly bill but, there is a surcharge for this service so a SunPass is more cost effective.
  • For more info, visit www.mdxort.com

For West Kendall Today

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