Politics
10:01 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Lawmakers Want To Change The Way MDX Does Business

MDX is under scrutiny by state lawmakers after a toll change on the Dolphin Expressway.
MDX is under scrutiny by state lawmakers after a toll change on the Dolphin Expressway.
Credit Jorge Elias/flickr

An effort to increase the state’s oversight of MDX - the Miami Dade Expressway Authority - barely passed the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday. 

The bill was weakened significantly.  

A plan to cut the number of board members from 13 to 9 was thrown out. So was a provision that would have required the county commission to approve toll increases.

Even after those changes, a string of speakers stood up against the bill. Cutler Bay Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin came to Tallahassee to support MDX.

“They [MDX] have a plan to solve one of our worst problems which is the Dixie Highway corridor, which is the bus way," Sochin said. "The people that I’ve met with and dealt with at MDX I think deserve a great deal of credit and support.”

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, helped create the expressway authority during his time as a county commissioner. He says the legislation dilutes local control.

“Miami Dade’s expressway authority doesn’t get one single dollar from the state,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “It’s really a local toll road that gets all its money from local tolls collected from local residents.”

MDX was criticized last year for changing the way tolls are charged on the Dolphin Expressway, effectively raising the rates.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, said he wanted to get some control over toll increases, and he wants to stamp out conflicts of interest involving board members.

“What are we so scared about? Why are we so worried about raising the ethical standards of our boards?" Garcia asked. "Why are we going to wait till something happens before we increase ethical standards?”

Garcia’s bill prevents lobbyists from serving on the MDX board.

But the Senate’s watered-down version of the bill could be replaced by the House bill.

The House version gives the governor the power to appoint more than half of the board’s 13 members.  It also prevents MDX members from serving on other transportation boards, and it requires the approval of the county commission for any toll increases.

The Senate version has two more committee stops. The House bill is getting closer to a floor vote.