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Turnpike Toll Plaza Removal Creates Bottlenecks

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(CBS4)

(CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBS4)- What began as a project to eliminate traffic congestion is now causing it along a stretch of the Florida Turnpike.

The Florida Department of Transportation is demolishing 37 of its toll plazas between Miramar and the Florida Keys. Drivers will need to use a SunPass or get billed based on their license plate.

It’s a transition that has made work frustrating for Chad Cooper, a courier.

“I’m trying to deliver medical specimens and I’m already in a hurry,” said Cooper. “So it’s just trying to stay calm.”

That is easier said than done for many drivers stuck in the bottlenecks created during rush hour near the areas where toll plazas are being knocked down.

“It kinda sucks when it gets up to like when it gets super packed,” said driver Kristy Persad. “The other night it was up to like a 45 minute wait.”

But FDOT officials said the delays are not as bad as they seem.

Traffic heading northbound near the extension near Bird Road is just a two minute delay during peak times, according to Sonyha Rodriguez-Miller, a spokesperson for Florida’s Turnpike.

She said it’s an issue she expects to improve even more once the auxiliary lanes are finished to allow for easier merging on and off the highway.

“So once these lanes are built then we definitely expect that we’re going to see shorter travel times on that stretch,” said Rodriguez-Miller.

Last Friday, the Miramar Toll Plaza was taken down. In addition to tearing the concrete, state workers will also have to remove the tunnel under the lanes which allowed workers to get to the tollbooths without walking across traffic. The tunnel removal must be done before the workers can re-pave.

At the turnpike near the old Miramar toll plaza she said preliminary data suggests no delays during peak times. But many drivers in that area disagree.

“I mean it could be an hour and a half,” said Persad. “I mean it could be a long wait when it gets backed up you’re moving bumper to bumper for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.”

Taking down the tollbooths is not the only task part of the $57.8 million electronic tolling project, but the pavement on which they stood must be torn out and the lanes re-paved.

In addition to taking out the Miramar, Okeechobee, Bird Road and Homestead plazas, workers also have to remove all the toll stations at the exit ramps.

To aid the congestion, an extra lane will be added later this year in each direction between the Bird Road exit and the Dolphin Expressway. Another idea being considered is opening a second lane at the Southwest 120th Street exit where three lanes have been squeezed into one.

Turnpike authorities said the project is expected to be completed some time in the fall.

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