Judge tosses Florida law to replace Miami-Dade Expressway Authority
A Florida judge has turned back a state law to do away with the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.
Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that state lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis violated a home-rule provision in the state’s constitution earlier this year when they passed legislation to shut down the authority and replace it with the Greater Miami Expressway Agency. HB385 transferred to the new agency all liabilities and assets – including toll facilities.
DeSantis said the law would help to ensure that government agencies act in the best interest of the communities they serve.
MDX filed the lawsuit in May saying the legislation was unconstitutional because it violated home-rule powers in Miami-Dade County. The expressway authority also argued the new rule would impair contracts.
The governor’s office and the Florida Department of Transportation filed briefs that argued the authority is a regional agency because it operates roads outside the Miami-Dade area.
The state is expected to appeal Judge Cooper’s decision. In the meantime, the judge has provided an injunction to allow the authority to continue to operate.
Concerns about MDX have grown in recent years. Toll rate increases have drawn the most attention. Additionally, a lengthy court battle concluded in early 2018 found the authority to blame for a toll collection system that did not work properly. MDX was ordered to pay $53 million to the toll collection system contractor.
The bill signed by DeSantis specified the Miami-Dade County Commission and the Transportation Planning Organization receive five seats on the new agency’s board. The governor’s office would fill the remaining four seats of the Greater Miami Expressway Agency.
Toll rates also were to be frozen through 2029.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has called for DeSantis to skip an appeal. Instead, Gimenez said he will work with the governor on solutions to reduce tolls on MDX roadways and all state-run roads.
Gimenez said in prepared remarks that he has a proposal to reduce tolls on MDX roadways by 20%. LL