For longtime Redland resident Pat Milone, the best part of her commute home from Kendall is a stop at a farm stand along Krome Avenue. She takes her pick from dozens of vendors selling fruits and vegetables — many grown just a few feet away.
“There are grove trees and citrus and every kind of fruit tree you could imagine,” she says. “I’ve seen everything along Krome.”
But Milone, who has lived in the Redland since 1978, is worried that those stands may soon be gone if the Florida Department of Transportation’s proposed plans to substantially widen the southernmost section of Krome breaks ground. Workers are expanding the avenue all the way from Okeechobee Road to Florida City from two to four lanes to ease traffic and prevent deadly crashes.
“People come to Krome from all over Dade County and the Keys to access fresh produce,” Milone says. “Is that going to disappear?”
As the population of West Miami-Dade has swelled, so has the number of cars on the road. Krome is a notoriously dangerous stretch, often dubbed “Killer Krome.” For years, victims’ groups have pushed for improvements, including better lighting and a center median to prevent
After years of debate, the proposal was finally approved in 2013, and work on Krome began February 23. It will continue until at least 2022, at a cost of more than $300 million.
Like Milone, many in South Florida’s agricultural community say they’ll be affected by changes to the road near the Redland. After FDOT revealed plans for that segment in a June meeting, many farmers reacted with shock and confusion as to why the expansion there needs to be so drastic.
“This is the biggest threat ever to our agricultural community and rural character,” says Sidney Robinson, a tropical fruit grower who has lived in the Redland for 62 years. “We all want to improve Krome and increase safety, but this will divide our community and create inconveniences to the agriculture industry that is the economic basis of our lives.”
An FDOT spokesperson said the agency could not comment. But some farmers who’ve watched Krome change over the years agree with the expansion plans. Third-generation South Floridian Robert Fuchs, who owns R.F. Orchids, says the area’s growth has made the expansion necessary, even if it does change the area’s character.
“We have to do something to make it safer for the people in the community and people who come down here,” he says. “It used to be such a beautiful drive, but not anymore.”
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Fuchs adds that tractors and trucks also need more space to turn and maneuver along the road.
Farmers plan to voice their concerns at a town hall meeting this week, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava says she’ll raise similar alarms later this month at a transportation meeting.
“The Redland is where people leave you alone,” Milone says. “Why do you need a four-lane highway with a 30-foot median on a farm road? We don’t want sidewalks, and we don’t want streetlights.”