The new Hialeah Bypass Lanes, also known as the Palmetto Express Lanes are a disaster to the local traffic.
Let’s get straight to the problems:
- Traffic in the “regular lanes” is now far worse due to the elimination of previously accessible lanes.
- Hialeah residents, businesses, students, etc., have zero access to get onto the express lanes.
- There is no benefit to the Spanish speaking, politically unconnected people of Hialeah.
Let’s address problem number one. Does anyone disagree traffic has gotten worse?
Let’s look at the evidence. Here’s a screenshot of the Pre-Hialeah Bypass Express Lanes on the Southbound Palmetto Expressway at NW 103rd Street. Count the lanes:
You’ll notice there are 7 lanes in total:
- The far left lane was inaccessible due to preparation for the Hialeah Bypass
- There were four free-flowing southbound lanes
- Two exit only lanes to NW 103rd Street
Now, let’s look at the current state of affairs with the Hialeah Bypass:
It’s harder to see in this photo due to the traffic, but there are still 7 lanes.
- The (2) two left lanes are for the Hialeah Bypass
- Now, there are only (3) three free flowing southbound lanes
- Two exit only lanes to NW 103rd Street
So, for Hialeah residents, the Florida Department of Transportation reduced the amount of free flowing lanes by 25% (from 4 to 3) thus forcing all of Hialeah to use just 3 lanes. Plus, let’s say you actually wanted to get onto the Hialeah bypass, you can’t. There’s no entrance into the Hialeah Bypass (aka Express Lanes) from within Hialeah. So residents of Hialeah are being forced to accept more traffic that is forced onto just three lanes.
If you’re living, working, going to school, or otherwise commuting in Hialeah, the new Palmetto Express Lanes have increased, not decreased your commute times. The new Palmetto Express Lanes have increased, not decreased congestion in the Hialeah portion of the Palmetto Expressway. Hialeah residents get all the traffic and none of the benefits.
Are you surprised that a community that is majority Hispanic, low income, not politically connected got the raw end of the deal in the Palmetto Expressway “improvements?”
The Hialeah Bypass is great for people who want to bypass Hialeah. And generally, I don’t have a problem with the express lanes, if they are new lanes that don’t hurt the everyday commute of regular drivers. If they are new lanes that didn’t steal from the existing commuter lanes, then it would be fine.
Having only (3) three free flowing lanes at NW 103rd Street in Hialeah is the same amount Hialeah had back in the 80s, nearly forty years ago. It can’t be the City of Progress if it has the same amount of lanes as it did back in the 80s. It can’t be the City of Progress, if its residents have no way of accessing the new, pay per use, Express Lanes.
So, who’s driving through the 3 lanes of the Palmetto at NW 103rd Street?
- Everyone who was on the Palmetto from the big bend who did not elect to get onto the express lanes. (Either because they have a local exit or simply don’t want to pay the fee.)
- Everyone who entered the Palmetto from I-75’s non Express Lanes. (As you know, that’s a whole highway dumping onto the Palmetto.)
- Everyone who gets on the Palmetto from NW 122nd Avenue.
So FDOT, in it’s infinite government wisdom, is merging all the traffic from the Palmetto and I-75 and NW 122 street onto three lanes of traffic? And no one thought this might be a problem?
(NOTE: For the purpose of this article, we’re only looking at the Southbound lanes of the Palmetto. We have yet to evaluate the northbound lanes and its impact on current traffic. We hope it’s not as bad as this government created bottleneck at NW 103 ST.)
As the saying goes, there are multiple ways to skin a cat. And in this case, there are multiple solutions to bring back a 4th lane to Hialeah residents.
Solution 1: ADD AN EXTRA LANE
This one seems like the easiest solution. Reduce the size of the emergency lanes (just like they did on I-95) and add an extra free lane to allow Hialeah residents the same level of highway access they used to have. This will also help with the rush hour congestion that forms on the Palmetto.
This solutions seems simple enough, but some of the overpass bridges may not be wide enough to support the extra lane. We’re not engineers, so we’re not going to speculate whether this will work throughout the entire bypass or not, but clearly there are plenty of areas that can support an extra lane by reducing the size of the emergency lane on both shoulders.
This keeps 2 express lanes and 4 regular lanes at the expense of the emergency lanes
Solution 2: REDUCE THE EXPRESS LANE TO ONE LANE
Reduce the express lanes to just one lane and give an express lane back to the people. This is a relatively simple solution and provides the best option to allow entry and exit access to Hialeah residents.
But let’s be serious, does anyone think the money hungry people creating revenues from these express lanes want to give an express lane back?
Yeah, I doubt that’s ever going to happen.
Solution 3: Eliminate the Express Lanes
Hialeah could really benefit from having 5 free flowing lanes. Traffic would move a lot smoother than it does today, but if you think giving one express lane is impossible, giving up 2 express lanes is as likely as resurrecting a monument for Fidel Castro on West 49th Street.
Solution 4: Widen The Highway
This one has a possibility of happening, but like most highway widenings in Miami, by the time the project is done, they need to widen it further. This is another project unlikely to see the light of day over the next 10 years.
Winners of the new Express Lane:
- Fat Cats at the Florida Department of Transportation FDOT
- Anyone who wants to pay to skip Hialeah traffic
- Politically Connected Contractors
- Construction Crews
LOSERS of the new Express Lane:
- The poor
- All Hialeah drivers
- The politically dismissed constituents
- Anyone who doesn’t want to pay to use the express lanes
At the end of the day, the poorest of the poor are getting the shaft. The new express lanes reduced the amount of lanes for local Hialeah traffic thus increasing traffic, increasing backups, increasing congestion, increasing pollution, increasing waste, increasing drive times, and wasting the money and deteriorating the quality of the commute for the lives of the people who could least afford it.
The new Hialeah Bypass Express Lanes have not reduced congestion. It has increased congestion. Thus, it ensures demand for the Express Lanes for the product the FDOT is selling.
The new Hialeah Bypass is the equivalent of Miami-Dade Water and Sewer creating new high pressure water lines for your home, but reducing your old water lines to a daily drip. You can keep your old water lines without a problem for your old water rate, but the new high pressure, hi flow water lines will only be available for a premium…oh, and it won’t be available in Hialeah.