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Brickell

South Florida needs regional solutions

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Will the pols listen?

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/8688657.htm

South Florida problems need regional solutions, report says

By SAMUEL P. NITZE

[email protected]

South Florida leaders must reach across county lines to plan for continuing growth or the region will become an increasingly difficult place to live, according to a study released Monday by Florida Atlantic University.

In its broad outlines, the report tells a familiar story: Explosive population growth -- increasing an estimated 23 percent per decade over a seven-county area -- has placed severe strain on the region's resources. Affordable housing is scarce, traffic is a nightmare, the gap is widening between the poor and the wealthy, schools are struggling, and the environment is at risk.

Echoing previous studies, the FAU report argues that if regional planning doesn't take hold, the problems will only get worse.

''All 5.7 million people in South Florida should be concerned about this report,'' said James F. Murley, director of the Catanese Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, which prepared the study. ``This is a wake-up call to leaders from Key West to Vero Beach.''

Murley was referring to a seven-county South Florida that stretches south to Monroe County and north to Martin, Indian River, and St. Lucie Counties in the north. The expanded region reflects one of the study's key findings: that Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are intensely interconnected with neighboring areas.

The study noted signs that regional cooperation already is under way, including the establishment of a Regional Transportation Authority and cross-county organizations such as Leadership Florida and the Tri-County Leadership Council.

Divided into sections on place, environment, and the economy, the report provides a wide-ranging survey of statistics and trends -- many of them driven by population growth.

Traffic and the lack of affordable housing were among the problems highlighted.

The region is among the most congested in the country and commute times are getting longer and longer, the report said. The seven counties of South Florida are ranked among the lowest in availability of affordable housing.

One potential solution to both problems lies in redevelopment of the old urban core between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95, said Allan Wallis, an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who contributed to the report.

With more people concentrated in smaller areas, demand for public transportation would be more effective, and the higher density would allow for cheaper housing.

''All of these things are coupled together,'' Wallis said. ``The idea would be to have apartment and condo units mixed with commercial -- shopping and restaurants -- so people would have a pedestrian-oriented environment.''

He noted that redevelopment projects already are underway in some communities, including parts of Fort Lauderdale.

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Interesting. Sounds like South Florida is being forced to wake up and deal with its population situation. Aren't there plans for some kind of mass transit system that connects Ft. Lauderdale and Miami? I thought I had heard that, but I could be wrong....

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We already have the Tri-Rail commuter rail which connects the 3 counties (Dade, Broward and Palm Beach), but it's follows 95 and doesn't connect the urban centers. There were talks of building a similar system further east that would hit the major downtowns plus a lot of the smaller cities, but I haven't heard anything about it lately.

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I know that the mayor of Ft. Lauderdale said that the new rail line "isn't a question of IF, but a question of WHEN" So I really think this is gonna happen. Also, Tri-Rail is planning on expanding up to Jupiter, which will help link that area to the rest of the Tri-County area.

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