Vice Mayor calls for transportation/traffic summit

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 0 Comments

After Miami Lakes and other northwest Miami-Dade communities indicated they were excluded from the county’s Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, a local council member is calling for a public transportation and traffic summit in an effort to place rapid transit buses and possibly a light rail in the those areas.
Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez initially proposed to form a coalition with neighboring and nearby communities such as Hialeah, Palm Springs North, Hialeah Gardens, Doral, Miami Springs and Medley and put pressure on Miami-Dade County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) to include them in the SMART Plan.
But he rescinded the second part of his proposal after Mayor Manny Cid indicated several cities may reject teaming up with Miami Lakes since they crafted out their own ideas for traffic and transportation improvements, hoping county officials would adopt them into the SMART Plan.
Rodriguez said the traffic and transportation summit would be similar to the one he and former Councilmember Tony Lama spearheaded several years ago which brought the state and county’s braintrust together to discuss the long-running traffic gridlock throughout Miami-Dade.
“There are no future plans for northwest Miami-Dade that I haven’t seen from the county’s SMART Plan,” Rodriguez said at the January 15 regular council meeting. “The goal of the summit is bringing in the PTO to explain why we were excluded from the SMART Plan.”
Rodriguez is also calling for town hall meetings to educate residents on the town’s traffic conditions and plans to resolve the gridlock.
“We need to educate residents on where we are and where we are going to go,” he said.
Rodriguez, Miami Lakes’ representative for the League of Cities’ transportation committee, said the county expanded rapid bus services to southwest Miami-Dade for areas including Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay in lieu of extending Metrorail.
The SMART Plan is a comprehensive plan which advances six rapid transit corridors to the Project Development and Environment study phase to determine the costs and potential sources of funding for the projects.
The Transportation Trust has committed to work collaboratively with the County, the municipalities, the transportation partners, the community and the private sector to develop a funding strategy to use People’s Transportation Plans (PTP) funds to implement the projects in the SMART Plan.
Funding for the PDE Phase is confirmed, with the Transportation Trust providing major financial support for the Beach Corridor, the East-West Corridor and the South Corridor. The Florida Department of Transportation is funding the Kendall Corridor, North Corridor and the Northeast Corridor.
The plan might also include placing a light rail near the corridors in Miami-Dade at some point in the future.
Rodriguez said the only north corridor in the plan is along N.W. 27 Avenue stretching to County Line Road in Miami Gardens, however, officials for both entities are at odds over extending Metrorail further north.
“Everyone is battling,” he said.
Christopher Ferreira, chief of staff for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who chairs the county’s transportation committee, said Miami Lakes and surrounding areas are included in the SMART Plan.
He said a park and ride is currently under construction near Miami Gardens Drive and I-75, where an express bus would transport passengers to Palmetto Metrorail station and connect them to Downtown Miami, and another express bus to Dolphin Mall using Florida’s Turnpike.
The SMART Plan also includes building a park and ride facility near Dolphin Mall, where an express bus would take passengers along the east and west corridor to reach Miami International Airport, and an additional bus will connect them further south to Homestead and Florida City areas.
“The SMART Plan is much more than the six corridors.” Ferreira said. “The plan also includes placing express buses in areas where people don’t live near corridors.”
Ferreira said under the leadership of Bovo, FDOT has committed to TPO to fund the transportation projects at $6,230,000 for the five year work program.
Cid said new Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may make some changes to the PTO and may give the town an opportunity to have its own representative on the board to make sure Miami Lakes is part of the SMART Plan.
“If there’s an opening, he may consider us,” Cid said.
In other Council actions:
• Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance which would protect tree canopy throughout the town and adopt the town’s beautification master plan.
The proposed measure would ensure the integrity of the town signature appeal, its tree canopy, is property maintained, restored in areas where it has been diminished and replanted tight the appropriate materials (right tree right place).
Council members will give their final vote following a public hearing at the council meeting next month.
• Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance which would establish a restricted long-term infrastructure renewal and replacement fund to renew or replace depreciating or decaying general fund assets, excluding routine repairs and maintenance or new construction.
If it becomes law, the ordinance would establish a $150,000 annual fund contribution from the general fund, which may increase as needed through the budget process.
Council members will give their final vote following a public hearing at the council meeting in February.
• Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance to amend the town’s budget to carry over the prior year’s estimated surplus to fund several projects that includes funding for one-time operating and or capital improvement expenditures, and adjusted amounts from grants and donations for town’s events.
The unrestricted general fund balance at the beginning of fiscal year 2017-2018 was $4.3 million per the audited financials.
Council members approved the transfer of $545,442 from the fund balance for litigation and settlement reserve ($500,000), annual leave cash-out as part of the employee retention program ($15,000), phone system upgrade ($20,442) and donations for the Youth Activity Task Force ($10,000). The adjustments reduced the general fund to $3.8 million.
With the remaining $769,000 surplus, town staff has recommended to fund certain projects including $391,670 for Miami Lakes Optimist Park’s master plan; $150,000 for the Optimist Clubhouse storage facility; and $100,000 for pocket parks sod restoration.
Council members will give their final vote following a public hearing at the council meeting next month.
• Council members approved a resolution to prioritize funding from the State Legislative Session including $2 million for Phase 2 of Royal Oaks Drainage project, $6 million for the Miami Lakes Business Park Northeast Resilient Transportation Infrastructure, and $853,000 for the Miami Lakes Business Park Southeast Resilient Transportation Infrastructure.
Council members also approved Councilmember Josh Dieguez’s proposal to add an I-75 ramp at N.W. 87 Avenue, which Senator Manny Diaz Jr. indicated he will push for funding for the project at the upcoming Legislative Session.
• Council members approved three separate but seemly-related resolutions to create three advisory committees from residents of the Royal Oaks East, Royal Oaks Section One and Miami Lakes Section One Special Taxing Districts for the purposes of reviewing the yearly budget for each respective special taxing district and to promulgate recommendations to the Town Council and staff for adjustments to the level of service, budget or any other related matters.
The committees are also responsible for monitoring the security guard contractors for the special taxing districts that the county transferred to Miami Lakes.
Each of the communities’ HOAs appointed committee members to the group.
For Royal Oaks East Advisory Committee, members include Gustavo Millan, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Homero Cruz and Marcus Gutierrez.
For Royal Oaks Section One Advisory Committee, members include Manuel Lopez, Abel Fernandez and Animal Perez.
For Miami Lakes Section One, the area is represented by several different HOAs, and town staff is recommending each HOA to appoint a member to the committee by next month.
• Council members authorized the town manager to execute a contract with Southeastern Engineering Contractors for the N.W. 67 Avenue widening project in an amount not to exceed $602,000.
The scope of the work includes traffic improvements at the intersection of Ludlum Road and N.W. 167 Street, including widening the roadway to incorporate an additional through lane for northbound traffic at the south leg of the intersection.
• Council members authorized the town manager to execute a contract with Arbor Tree and Land for canal bank stabilization phase II project in an amount not to exceed $1 million.
• Council members approved Cid’s proposal to amend the town attorney’s contract and assign assistant town attorney Lorenzo Cobiella to full-time with the town.
Cobiella is a member of the law firm of Gastesi and Associates. Raul Gastesi was currently the town attorney on a full-time basis.
Cid said the town has good flexibility with the contracted legal services but there is a downsize. “Attorneys have other clients and they are not 100 percent focused on Miami Lakes,” Cid said.
Cid said Cobiella is always at town hall assisting town staff and council members regarding Miami Lakes’ legal issues. “Lorenzo really has embraced the culture here,” he said. “We really want someone who is focused only on the town.”
Dieguez, an attorney, was the sole dissenting voice, saying changing from a contracted position to an in-house counsel should be discussed at length and at a later date with input from the residents.
But Cid said the position is still contracted; his proposal is requesting Cobiella be the full-time attorney for Miami Lakes.
Councilmember Jeff Rodriguez said Cobiella adds value to Miami Lakes but like some of his colleagues, he expressed a concern over the costs for an in-house-like attorney.
The costs includes retainer fees by the hour, a severance package and deferred compensation. Cid and new Town Manager Edward Pidermann will negotiate a contract for Cobiella for council’s approval.
• Council approved Jeff Rodriguez’s proposal to install the first Little Free Library at Picnic Park West, which is a non-profit organization that enables the exchange of millions of books in neighborhoods through donations.
• Council members approved Dieguez’s proposal to direct the town manager to take all steps to form a Complete Count Committees (CCC) as one step to position Miami Lakes for a successful census count. Dieguez said the CCC is important for the town to utilize the tool to ensure every Miami Lakes is counted at the next census in 2020.
Dieguez said a strong turnout for the census does more than provide an accurate count of the population, it is a vehicle for increased revenue from population based programs, increased economic development opportunities and increased clout in county affairs where some boards are population based.
• Council members approved Cid’s proposal for a 2025 Strategic Plan for a friendly, open, innovative, effective and efficient government for its residents and businesses.
Cid wants the plan to be open and transparent and solicit as much input as possible from the town’s stakeholders.
• Council members approved Nelson Rodriguez’s proposal to set a date as soon as possible for the town’s new blasting advisory committee to meet since the town’s state legislative representatives as well as with any new state representatives that may have changed committee assignments.
The proposal also includes the town manager working along with the committee as the liaison with assistance of outside consultants.
Rodriguez also requested to be appointed to the committee to fill the seat former Vice Mayor Frank Mingo held before he ran for state representative.

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