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836/826 interchange project slated to be done by late 2015

Drivers will have to wait another year before there's any relief

Author: Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Published On: Sep 17 2014 06:32:26 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 17 2014 06:35:49 PM EDT

836/826 interchange project about 80 percent done

TAKEN TO MAKE SURE THAT PARK IS SAFE BEFORE THEY REPOINT CORRECTIVE ACTION. Calvin Hughes: IT'S ABOUT AN A CONCERN FOR DRIVERS. THE 836 ENTERTAINING IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO CREATE TRAFFIC TROUBLE FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER YEAR. ROGER LOHSE EXPLAINS. IT'S A NIGHTMARE. Reporter: FROM THE AIR, THE 836-826 EXCHANGE LOOKS LIKE A BOWL OF SPAGHETTI, BUT DESPITE YEARS OF CONSTRUCTION, LANE SHIFTS AND DETOURS, IT'S STILL ONLY HALF-COOKED. NEVER FINISHED. IT'S ONLY BRIDGE, BRIDGE AND EVERYTHING. IT'S VERY BAD. I UNDERSTAND THAT IT CAN BE FRUSTRATING DRIVING THROUGH HERE AT TIMES. Reporter: PROJECT SPOKESMAN OSCAR GONZALEZ SAID ONE DAY THE INTERCHANGE WILL LOOK LIKE THIS, A I MAZE OF RAMPS AND BRIDGES THAT WILL ALLOW DRIVERS TO MOVE IN ANY DIRECTION BETWEEN THESE MAJOR HIGHWAYS, BUT DRIVERS WANT TO KNOW WHEN WILL IT BE BE DONE. CONSTRUCTION STARTED IN 2009. SINCE THEN THE COUNTY BUILT MARLINS PARK, THE ENTIRE STRETCH OF 595 WAS EXPANDED. THEY BUILT A TUNNEL UNDER GOVERNMENT CUT TO MIAMI. AND THURSDAY THE NEW 9,000-FOOT RUNWAY WILL OPEN AT FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL. THERE'S 430,000 VEHICLES THAT TRAVEL THROUGH THISY INTERCHANGE EVERY DAY. Reporter: GONZALEZ EXPLAINS IT'S TAKING SO LONG BECAUSE CREWS ARE DOING THEIR BESS BOAST KEEP COMMUTERS MOVING IN AN AREA WHERE 45 NEW BRIDGES ARE BEING BUILD. IF WE WERE ABLE TO CLOSE THREE OR FOUR LANES OR CLOSE LANES DURING THE DAY, YEAH, THAT WOULD OBVIOUSLY SPEED UP THE PROJECT, BUT THAT WOULDN'T DO OUR COMMUTERS ANY GOOD. Reporter: GONZALEZ EXPLAINS THAT CREWS ARE TAKING WHAT WAS A TWO-LEVEL INTERSECTION AND BUILDING A FIVE-LEVEL INTERSECTION. AT THE TOP WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW, DRIVERS WILL BE ABOUT 100 FEET IN THE AIR. YOU FEEL LOOK YOU'RE ON FINAL APPROACH TO M.I.A. FOR NOW, DRIVERS ARE STUCK IN A HOLDING PATTERN BUT GONZALEZ SAYS THE $560 MILLION PROJECT IS ABOUT 80% COMPLETE AND STILL ON

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. -

Drivers will have to wait another year before there's any relief from the construction that's plagued traffic at the 836/826 interchange for nearly five years.

"It's a nightmare to tell you the truth," one driver said of the project that never seems to end.

"Never finish, it's only (the) bridge, bridge and everything else, very bad," said commuter Patricia Ramos.

From the air the 836/826 interchange looks like a bowl of spaghetti but despite years of construction, lane shifts and detours, it's still only half-cooked.

"I understand that it can be frustrating driving through here at times," said project spokesman Oscar Gonzalez.

One day the interchange will be a smooth-flowing maze of new bridges and ramps that will allow drivers to move freely in any direction between these major highways. But drivers want to know -- when will it be done?

"Like a hundred years maybe?" commented a frustrated woman pumping gas near the interchange.

Construction started in 2009 and since then Miami-Dade County built Marlins Park, the entire stretch of 595 was expanded, crews built a tunnel under Government Cut to Port Miami and next week, the new 9,000-foot runway will open at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International.

"There's 430,000 vehicles that travel through this interchange every day," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez explained it's taking so long because crews are doing their best to keep commuters moving in an area where 45 new bridges are being built.

"Now if we were able to close three or four lanes during the day, that would obviously speed up the project but that wouldn't do our commuters or our business people, the people that move cargo, that wouldn't do them any good," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said crews are taking a two-level intersection and making it five-level intersection. At the top, drivers will be about 100 feet in the air and the view from up there feels like you're on final approach to Miami International Airport.

For now, motorists are stuck in a holding pattern but Gonzalez said the $560 million project is about 80 percent complete and still on schedule. It's slated to be done by late 2015.

"And by the time they're done, they're going to have to do construction again," said Gonzalez.

Aviation director faces backlash over airport traffic plan

Residents, business owners say they weren't told of plan to demolish exit ramp

Author: Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Published On: Sep 02 2014 05:50:35 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 02 2014 11:31:00 PM EDT

Residents, passengers outraged over loss of FLL exit

AND RIGHT NOW AT 5:30, BIG CHANGES HAPPENING AT FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. ARE AFFECTING THE WAY THAT DRIVERS GET OUT OF THE AIRPORT. THE LENGTHENING OF ONE OF THE RUNWAYS HAS LED TO A NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS FROM RESIDENTS AND PASSENGERS USING THE AIRPORT, MAINLY ABOUT THE LOSS OF AN EXIT. BUT WHO IS TO BLAME FOR ALL OF THE CONFUSION? LOCAL10 NEWS REPORTER ROGER LOHSE HAS THE ALITO ON THIS AIRPORT FIGHT. Reporter: WE HAVE HAD THIS ON OUR PLANS SINCE THE BEGINNING. Reporter: BROWARD COUNTY AVIATION DIRECTOR KENT GEORGE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE BACKLASH OVER THE PLAN TO DO AWAY WITH THE AIRPORT EXIT RAMP THAT FUNNELED DRIVERS FROM TOURISTS DIRECTLY ONTO SOUTHBOUND US-1 INTO DANIA BEACH IN HOLLYWOOD. THERE IS A PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS THAT THE AIRPORT PULLED A FAST ONE ON THIS. YOU SAY WHAT? NO, THERE'S NO -- THAT'S A ERRONEOUS PERCEPTION. Reporter: AT A PUBLIC HEARING LAST WEEK FURIOUS RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS COMPLAINED THAT THEY WERE NEVER TOLD ABOUT THE NEW PLAN TO DIVERT THOSE SOUTHBOUND DRIVERS ALL THE WAY AROUND THE EAST END OF THE NEW RUNWAY AND DUMP THEM ONTO US-1 AT GRIFFIN ROAD. WE REALLY RELY ON OUR PARTNERS TO TELL US WHAT THEY'RE DOING. Reporter: GREG STEWART HEADS UP THE BROWARD MAPPING PLANNING ORGANIZATION -- METROPOLITAN P METROPOLITAN, THAT THAT PROVED HOW FEDERAL DOLLARS SPENT. HE SAID THE AIRPORT DIDN'T DULL ITS FINAL EXIT PLAN AT THE. TWO YEARS AGO. THIS MAP OF THE AREA SHOWED THE NEW ROAD BUT THERE'S NOTHING TORNADO KATE WHAT IT IS. AND IF YOU LOOK, THE SOUTHBOUND RAMP IS ACTUALLY STILL SHOWN HERE WITHOUT ACTUALLY ANY TYPE OF "X" OVER IT OR ANY REAL REASON TO BELIEVE THAT IT WAS GOING TO GO AWAY. IT WASN'T BROUGHT OUT. IT WASN'T AT THE FOCAL POINT. Reporter: GEORGE SAYS THE ONLY CONCERNS WERE THE HEIGHT OF NEW RUNWAY AND THE NOISE FROM ALL THE NEW FLIGHTS, AND HE DENIED ANY CLANDESTINE EFFORT TO AVOID THIS EXIT ISSUE DURING THE PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS. WE DID NOT SAY, BY THE WAY, SOUTH EXIT IS' CHANGED AND THE NORTH EXIT'S CHANGED. DID YOU NOT DO THAT BECAUSE WHAT IS CONTROVERSIAL SH. NO, WE DID NOT DO IT BECAUSE NO ONE SAID A THING TO US ABOUT IT. WE DIDN'T SEE A PROBLEM WITH IT. Reporter: AND THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS, RIGHT? AND APPARENTLY THIS IS ONE DETAIL THAT ALMOST EVERYBODY OVERLOOKED IN THIS MASSIVE PLAN. GEORGE SAYS THERE WAS NEVER ANY OBLIGATION TO HOLDA PUBLIC HEARING ON THIS SPECIFIC ISSUE. AS FOR THE ROAD THAT'S GOING TO GO AROUND THE RUNWAY, HE SAYS IT'S GOING TO BE WELL-LIGHTED, IT'S HAVE PLENTY OF SIGNAGE, AND THAT AS SOON AS IT'S NEEDED THEY WILL ADD A SECOND LANE TO THAT ROAD TO MAKE TRAFFIC FLOW EVEN

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

Broward County's aviation director is defending the plan to demolish an exit ramp at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that funneled drivers onto southbound U.S. Highway 1 into Dania Beach and Hollywood.

"We've had this on our plan about this since the beginning," Broward County Aviation Director Kent George told Local 10's Roger Lohse.

"There is the public perception that the airport pulled a fast one on this. You say what?" Lohse asked George.

"No, that is an erroneous perception," George said.

At a public hearing last week, furious residents and business owners complained they were never told about the new plan to divert those southbound drivers all the way around the east end of the new runway and dump them onto U.S. 1 at Griffin Road.

Greg Stuart, who heads up the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, a panel of local elected officials that approves how federal dollars are spent, said the airport didn't divulge its southbound exit plans at its final presentation on the project two years ago.

"If you look, the southbound ramp is actually still shown here without any type of X over it or any real reason to believe it was going to go away," Stuart said. "It wasn't brought out."

George said the only concerns were the height of the new runway and noise from the new flights and he denies a clandestine effort to avoid this exit issue during the public hearing process.

Cuba limits amount of goods in travelers' luggage

Nearly $2 billion of products brought into Cuba each year

Published On: Sep 01 2014 04:50:31 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 01 2014 06:37:36 PM EDT

Cuba government cracks down on goods brought into island by travelers

AGAINST FOUR OF THE FIVE FILM CROW MEMBERS WERE NEVER EVEN FILED DISPLAY CRACKDOWN BY THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT TAKING EFFECT MAKING I MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR CUBE APP-AMERICANS TO GET THE GOODS THEIR RELATIVES RELY ON ONTO THAT KINDLY. LOCAL10'S ANDREW SPREES LIVE TO EXPLAIN. IT'S A DISASTER? YEAH. THE PEOPLE NOW IS PISSED OFF IN THE STREET. Reporter: WORD SPREAD QUICKLY ACROSS MIAMI. CUBAN GOVERNMENT NOW CRACKING DOWN ON WHAT GOODS AND HOW MUCH TRAVELERS ARE ALLOWED TO SHIP FOR BRING TO THE ISLAND WHEN TRAVELING. ABOUT THE PEOPLE SAY I WANT TO TAKE WHAT I WANT. WHY I NEED TO TAKE IT NOW THE GOVERNMENT IT. ONLY TEN PIECE. Reporter: SONIA HERNANDEZ OWNS ONE OF BUSINESSES ALONG EIGHTH STREET WHERE PEOPLE BUY IN BULK, CLOTHES, SHOES, BASIC GOODS TO TAKE BACK TO THEIR FAMILIES IN CUBA. HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FLY TO AND FROM THE ISLAND EACH YEAR TAKING THINGS LIKE HATS, TVs, EVEN WHOLE KITCHEN SINKS AS QUALITY PRODUCTS ARE BE EXPENSIVE AND HARD TO COME BY THERE. IT'S ONE REASON HERNANDEZ SAYS SHE LEFT. EVERYBODY COMING FOR DIFFERENT LIFE, YOU KNOW, FREE, SPEAK FREE LIFE. Reporter: THE NEW RESTRICTIONS CUT QUANTITIES AND PRODUCTS YOU CAN TAKE WITH YOU, FOR INSTANCE YOU CAN ONLY SHIP OR TRAVEL WITH 22 POUNDS OF DETERGENT INSTEAD OF 44. 24 BRAS INSTEAD OF 48. ET CETERA. YOU CAN'T SEND OR BRING ITEMS WORTH MORE THAN $1,000 BACK WITH YOU, EITHER. THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT SAYING THE MOVE IS MEANT TO CURB ABUSES THAT HAVE TURNED AIR TRAVEL INTO A WAIVE ILLEGALLY IMPORTING SUPPLIES. SOME SAYING THEY NEED TO KEEP SENDING SUPPLIES TO THEIR FAMILIES, THOUGH. YOU CAN IMAGINE THROUGHOUT THE DAY THIS HAS BEEN A HOT TOPIC IN SOUTH FLORIDA, NOT ONLY DO SO MANY PEOPLE SPECIFICALLY IN MIAMI HAVE FAMILY IN CUBA BUT A LOT OF BUSINESSES LIKE THIS ONE HERE BEHIND ME, THEIR CUSTOMERS PRETTY MUCH ONLY BUY IN BULK, CLOTHING, DIFFERENT SUPPLIES. SEVERAL OTHER STORES ACROSS THE STREET SO THAT THEY CAN TAKE IT

HAVANA -

Cubans braced Monday for a clampdown on the flow of car tires, flat-screen televisions, blue jeans and shampoo in the bags of travelers who haul eye-popping amounts of foreign-bought merchandise to an island where consumer goods are frequently shoddy, scarce and expensive.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban-Americans fly to and from the island each year thanks to the easing of travel restrictions by the U.S. and Cuban governments over the last five years. Their Cuba-bound checked baggage has become a continuous airlift that moves nearly $2 billion of products ranging from razor blades to rice cookers. The baggage carousels at Cuba's airports often look like they're disgorging the contents of an entire Wal-Mart or Target store. Many families bring special trailers to carry the bags of their returning family, which often weigh many hundreds of pounds and include items such as bicycles and flat-screen TVs.

But the Cuban government on Monday is enacting new rules meant to take a big bite of that traffic, sharply limiting the amount of goods people can bring into Cuba in their luggage, and ship by boat from abroad. The Cuban government says the restrictions are meant to curb abuses that have turned air travel in particular into a way for professional "mules" to illegally import supplies for both black-market businesses and legal private enterprises that are supposed to buy supplies from the state.

Among ordinary Cubans, reactions have ranged from worry to outrage that their primary, and for many only, source of high-quality consumer goods may be throttled.

"People are really unhappy," said Maite Delgado, a 75-year-old retired state worker. "All the clothes and shoes that I have come from my granddaughters in Spain or my siblings in the U.S."

The rules that go into effect Monday run 41 pages and give a sense of the quantity and diversity of the commercial goods arriving in checked bags. Travelers will now be allowed to bring in 22 pounds (10 kilos) of detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24 bras instead of 48. Four car tires are still permitted, as are two pieces of baby furniture and two flat-screen televisions. Cuban customs also bars passengers from bringing in items worth more than $1,000. Rather than examining receipts, customs agents are given a long list assigning pre-set values to certain goods ($250 for a video-game console, for example.) Those prices rise sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach that $1,000 limit.

The new rules similarly increase the duties paid on goods shipped from abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.

Authorities have taken to the airwaves and pages of state media in recent days to assure Cubans that the vast majority of travelers won't be affected. The change is intended "to keep certain people from using current rules on non-commercial imports to bring into the country high volumes of goods that are destined for commercial sale and profit," Idalmis Rosales Milanes, deputy chief of Cuban customs, told government newspaper Granma in Friday editions.

The government has justified the new rules with examples of prolific mules including one passenger it said brought in 41 computer monitors and 66 flat-screen TVs in a year.

Between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion worth of goods were flown to Cuba in traveler's baggage last year, with the average flyer bringing in goods worth $3,551, according to a 2013 survey of 1,154 Cuban and Cuban-American travelers conducted by the Havana Consulting Group, a Florida-based private consultancy that studies the Cuban economy.

"It's sustenance, support that greatly aids in the survival of the Cuban family," Consulting Group President Emilio Morales said. "Along with cash remittances, it's the most significant source of earnings for the Cuban population, not the salaries the government pays."

While his study did not look at the final destination of travelers' goods, Morales said he estimated based on his knowledge of the phenomenon that about 60 percent went to families and 40 percent to black-market retailers.

With foreign reserves dropping sharply over the last two years as Cuba tries to pay off sovereign debt and make itself a more attractive destination for foreign investment, Morales said, the government is desperate to reduce the flow of goods and push Cubans' relatives abroad to send help in the form of cash remittances, which are subjected to hefty government fees. Limiting informal imports also would presumably help boost business in state-controlled stores.

The rule change already has had an effect in Miami, where many stores are dedicated to selling goods to island-bound Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

"I haven't sold almost anything this morning," said Diana Calzadilla, 28, a cashier at Cadalzo Fashion, a store in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood that sells discount clothing and accessories to travelers on their way to Cuba. "People look around but they don't buy anything because they're not sure how much they're going to be able to bring."

Several "mules" have commented that they are going to look into other ways to make money, she said. At least one customer, she said, appeared decided.

"It was their last trip," she said. "They don't know if they'll go again."

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