2 min read January 2023 — Invest: spoke with Eulois Cleckley, director and CEO of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, about the department’s Smart Plan, which has a focus on expanding the region’s sustainable and environmentally friendly bus infrastructure, including its BRT electric bus system that “will be the longest BRT and all-electric system in the country.”
What have been some highlights for the Department of Transportation over the last 12 months and what are your priorities for 2023?
We are excited about our South Corridor project, which will improve the current transitway and transition it into a bus rapid transit (BRT) system. It will be the longest BRT using an all-electric bus system in the country. We are making significant progress on this BRT project, and it will be operational by 2024. This will dramatically transform how people move in the southern part of the county and up to Downtown. This will improve people’s lives for the better. We also have two other corridors in the SMART Program making progress. The first is the Beach Corridor and the Baylink. Over the past couple of years, we have negotiated with public-private partners to advance that project to pivot to expand our existing Metromover system to connect Downtown Miami to two locations on Miami Beach. The other announcement is that we will work with the Florida Department of Transportation to expand and accelerate our North Corridor rail extension up 27th Avenue to the county line. This was part of the People’s Transportation Plan over 20 years ago and we are finally seeing the advancements in this plan in the various corridors. We want to transform our transportation system across the county. We are also proud to have received 43 electric buses that we have added to our fleet, and we expect 32 more by the first quarter of 2023. We are looking to transition our bus fleet to become environmentally friendly and sustainable, with about 10% of our buses moving to all electric.
How are you adjusting to higher interest rates and other issues in the economy?
We are committed to moving forward with our capital investments in the county, as we saw a significant increase in our collections around the surtax, which funds our smart program. We are still having supply chain pressures because parts aren’t available and costs are up. These are things that everyone is dealing with across the country but we have a strong management program to help push through these challenges. We do feel that the economy is loosening a bit in terms of getting parts and materials, so hopefully over time there will be a change in these price increases from the last couple of years.
How are you demonstrating progress in your projects and mission?
Miami-Dade County is no different from any other transit agency throughout the country. Capital projects take quite a bit of time to plan, design and build. If you are not engaged with the specific details of how to deliver those projects, you may question why it takes so long. It is necessary to go through a complex design and planning process. It has to meet federal requirements, so this takes a number of years. The projects are beginning to better align with all the stakeholders involved, so we can keep a steady schedule moving forward. Projects get off schedule when there is a misalignment in the steps of project delivery. We have done a good job on staying focused, so we can align all of our priorities. I am confident that as we move forward and accelerate more projects, we will meet the projected timelines for the benefit of the residents of Miami-Dade County.
Safety is the No. 1 priority for the county. We want to make sure that people feel safe and that our infrastructure will get them where they need to go. We have an initiative called “Vision Zero,” which aims to reduce traffic fatalities to zero before 2040. The county experiences over 350 traffic deaths a year, which is way too much. Our program identifies projects and policies to reduce the number of people dying on our roadways. You will see improvements to high-crash intersections as well as the addition of dedicated bike lanes throughout the county.
How are you ensuring affordability in the transit sector?
We are leveraging transit-oriented developments. We have partnerships for mixed-use development to increase density at our 23 metro rail locations. We are excited about the Okeechobee Metro Rail Station, where they are building out five residential apartment buildings with 1,000 workforce housing units. This is something we are very pleased to move forward, as we can create a better and more connected community. It adds to the affordable units around metro-rail stations and it adds to the housing inventory to reduce housing costs during this difficult time. Our TODs, once completed, will offer more than 6,000 affordable or workforce housing units.
We also want to figure out ways to be a more efficient transportation system. Our Better Bus Network is a bus optimization project. We are slowly but surely implementing better efficiencies for our Metro Bus service. This allows us to build a better quality of life for people in the county because we can relieve the burden of transportation costs.
What is your outlook heading into 2023?
We have gone through a significant reorganization here in our department. We have a new leadership team that we are excited about. One of our department initiatives is our SHIFT305 initiative. This is a focus on improvements on projects that we will deliver by 2025 that will make our transportation system even safer, cleaner, more efficient and more connected.
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