What Happened To The Miami Mystery?!
This one is for the locals…..
For many years, going West in Dade County was more or less an all-day experience. You usually packed a lunch, a few gallons of bottled water, a book and maybe some extra work from the office if you wanted to get from I-95 to anywhere else in the city, Which, for the nine of you still reading this who aren’t from Miami, is pretty much where everyone lives. US-1 was an acceptable option if you are the kind of person who enjoys having nails driven into their skulls, and the Airport Expressway was only helpful if you were trying to leave town or get carjacked. And let’s not even talk about the streets. So what was your only remaining option? Good old 836, or as we locals call it, the Dolphin Expressway.
Presumably named because it passes right next to the Orange Bowl (aka where the Dolphins played back when they were actually good), The Dolphin is an East-West toll road that goes from Downtown to the Florida Turnpike, passing by Miami International Airport along the way. The weird thing about 836, though, is that you would be cruising along from downtown on your way to Dolphin Mall or the Palmetto or maybe even Sweetwater if you were lucky, and as soon as you got to MIA traffic came to a dead stop. No matter what time of day or what was going on, between LeJeune Road and 72nd Ave you could pretty much plan on being in your car for a good twenty minutes. And I think that distance is roughly three miles. It made absolutely no sense. At first I thought the delay was caused by merging traffic from The Palmetto Expressway, but it always eased up a good mile before the turnoff. The only explanation was that nobody on that road going West had ever seen an airplane before and therefore had to slow down and stare at the strange flying metal tubes to their right. It was such an odd phenomenon that The New Times dubbed it The Miami Mystery.
Whenever you traveled West, you always had to account for The Mystery. If a drive took twenty minutes at night, it was a guaranteed 40 during the day. So it was with this assumption that I got in my car the other day going to UM from my new home in Little Havana, fully prepared to lay on the horn and curse profusely when I got to MIA. But a funny thing happened on the way to my Road Rage arrest; traffic actually SPED UP. Just a fluke, I figured. Until I did the same drive the next day. And the next. And the next. Still, no traffic. Where’s the mystery? What happened? Are we all used to seeing airplanes now?
I find it impossible to believe that the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDXA – sounds like a club drug, doesn’t it?) actually found a way to lighten traffic on a major thoroughfare. It just isn’t how things work here. But lo and behold unless you are traveling between 3 and 7 in the afternoon, the Dolphin is actually a quick, pleasant way to go West. When did this happen? And more importantly, how did they do it? I see no new lanes. I see no walls blocking people from gawking at Jumbo Jets. Where is my Miami Mystery? Where did it go?
In a way, I kind of miss the Mystery. It used to be a time to catch up with old friends on the cell phone or test out the new brakes on my car. I had even started check email on my phone in traffic, and was eager to utilize my Mystery time to do that when I moved East. Now? Now I get tailgated when my Saturn tops out at 70 in front of the airport. What gives? I’m looking at you, Rick. Alesh. The guy who does Transit Miami. Any of you have any answers for this? The old Miami Mystery has been replaced with a new one: How on Earth did they fix this? And more importantly, why can’t they apply this miraculous solution to the rest of our South Florida roadways? All I have to say is stand by, Palmetto. If it can happen to the Dolphin, it can happen to you.