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New Expressway Proposal for Krome Avenue Is a Horrible Idea

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Driving on Krome Avenue is a journey through old Florida's last frontier -- a place before suburban sprawl, crippling traffic congestion, and overdevelopment choked our wonderful, incredible ecosystem.

Whenever Banana Republican has to hop from North Dade to South Dade, we take the two-lane road so we can enjoy the blissful scenery surrounding it.

But there is now a move afoot to destroy that serenity.

The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), a semi-independent agency that manages the county's tolled highways, is on a mission to expand the Dolphin Expressway west of Florida's Turnpike. One of the proposed alignments could take a north-to-south turn along Krome, over land that is off-limits to more development.

Though the MDX doesn't yet have the funds to begin building the extension, the agency does have $6.9 million in taxpayer funds for an engineering firm to "study" the proposal for the next five years.

MDX officials told the Miami Herald the expansion is needed to provide relief for the far western suburbs of Miami-Dade, where homeowners sit in gridlock traveling east on local roads to get to the turnpike or the Palmetto Expressway. They're even designating Krome a "dangerous" road because its passing lanes increase the chances of head-on collisions.

Javier Rodriguez, executive director of MDX, told the Herald: "It's crazy what is happening out there. We have to deal with an existing problem that we have. How are we going to deal with growth?"

It's a classic scare tactic used by pro-development advocates to continue creating more sprawl in Miami-Dade. The only people who'd benefit are real estate developers, as well as the lobbyists sitting on the MDX board of directors.

Eye on Miami drew up a nifty little map showing large swaths of land on and around Krome owned by some of the county's most influential builders and businessmen.

Major landowners include two companies called Santa Fe Haciendas LLC and Krome Gold Ranches II. Santa Fe is owned by real estate developer Guess who was Shojaee's lobbyist when the developer won approval from the Miami-Dade County Commission to use the land for a rock quarry in 2011? None other than MDX board member and Miami attorney Felix Lasarte.

Shojaee was going to lease the acreage to Cemex Construction Materials until a lawsuit by residents in the area stuck a fork in his plans. In December, Shojaee gave up the site to Cemex in a deed to avoid foreclosure. The construction-making company loaned Shojaee the money used to buy the property.

At one point, Lasarte also represented Krome Gold Ranches II, a firm co-owned by South Florida Superbowl Host Committee chairman Rodney Barreto. Between 2005 and 2006, Krome Gold purchased 584 acres on Krome for $58.5 million. Lasarte withdrew as Krome Gold's lobbyist in 2007, a year before he was appointed to MDX.

Lasarte says his past representation of the landowners is not a problem. He points out that there are no plans to convert the Santa Fe property into a residential or commercial development. It is strictly being used as a rock pit, he says. 

"I don't agree with your conclusion that my vote, to approve various studies for transportation improvement in various regions of Miami-Dade County, creates a conflict of interest," Lasarte says. "I don't see how it is a conflict."

Furthermore, Lasarte insists, expanding the Dolphin Expressway doesn't mean there is going to be further development. "In this case, we need to alleviate the traffic problems out there," he says. "Right now it takes 15 to 20 minutes to get to the turnpike from Kendall Drive on a Saturday. We need to figure out an alternate route to provide some traffic relief."

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness

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