There are about 6 million people living in south Florida, and every one of them, it seems, has a car, maybe two. There's one truly bipartisan issue down here--traffic sucks. What isn't so bipartisan, however, is how to fix the problem. The depressing thing is that none of them seem to involve public transportation. They generally involve more and larger roads.

This one has its own set of problems, largely because it not only makes more roads, but it puts tolls in the hands of a private company.

The state Legislature recently passed a law that allows private companies to build roads and charge tolls to recoup their investment.

If the state finds investors and contractors who are willing to pay for the $1.4 billion project, construction of the highway would begin in 2009 and be finished in 2014.

FDOT is seeking private investors and contractors interested in the project. So far, nearly 100 companies from Doral to London have expressed interest.

The problem is that the private company can raise and keep tolls indefinitely.

I-595, if you're not from the area, has a tendency to turn into a parking lot, as do most highways in south Florida. There are just too many cars. But the answer doesn't have to be more highways, especially private ones, when a solid public transportation system is a better long term solution to the traffic woes in south Florida.

See, population density is already fairly high down here, and it's not going to get any better (at least, until the tides swallow us all). More roads aren't the solution. The best solution is to find a way to get cars off the roads, and the best way to do that is to offer alternatives. The time is ripe for such a plan since gas prices are hovering around $3.00 a gallon and won't be headed downward any time soon. While there is a rail system, it's very expensive and very limited. The current plan for the elevated highways could be replaced with an east-west corridor light rail system. Instead of spending more money on new highways (and by extension, handing a ton of it over to the private investors), why not expand the bus system so that it actually serves a wide range of the population? I'd much rather spend money on a public good than pay investors for roads, especially if we're heading toward a future that may see a reduction in the number of cars on the roads. Regardless, there comes a point at which there is no more room for roads. Why not start planning for that day now?

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