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Don Shula Expressway/SR 874

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 Length: 6.94 miles
 Opened: 1974
 Speed Limit: 55 MPH

  Overview
  History
  Today

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  Interchange Diagram

Overview

State Road 874 is the Don Shula Expressway in Kendall in South Dade. Before 1983, it was known as the South Dade Expressway until it was renamed for Miami Dolphin football legend Don Shula.

The Don Shula Expressway is a diagonal route from the Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) near SW 40th Street to the Homestead Extension of Florida's Turnpike (HEFT). It gives motorists a route from the Palmetto and points north to South Dade and Homestead via HEFT. While the Don Shula is a perfectly diagonal route, it is signed as north/south, despite having an even digit number that suggests a east/west route.

Although the northbound control city says Coral Gables, the Don Shula does not actually go there. To get to Coral Gables, you must exit at SW 40th Street and head eastbound.

History

To get a better understanding of the Don Shula Expressway, I highly recommend you visit the freeway planning page.

The Don Shula Expressway started out on the 1969 Miami Transportation Study as the South Dade Expressway, a diagonal line from the Palmetto Expressway toward the planned West Dade Expressway. In a strange configuration at this interchange, the South Dade Expressway would essentially exit itself and continue southbound. The basic road would continue diagonally southwest, but as part of the West Dade Expressway. The following illustration shows the strange interchange setup.

At this interchange, the South Dade Expressway would continue south until terminating at another planned freeway, the South Dixie Expressway parallel to U.S. 1.

Part of it would be built using the available right of way along the South Florida Rail Corridor (SFRC) rail line. It was planned to be 4 lanes from the Palmetto Expressway to the planned Snapper Creek Expressway, 8 lanes from the Snapper Creek to Killian Parkway, 6 lanes from Killian Parkway to SW 152nd Street, and 4 lanes for the rest of its length. Along the way, interchanges were planned at:

  • SW 88th Street 
  • Killian Parkway 
  • West Dade Expressway 
  • SW 152nd Street
  • SW 184th Street 
  • Quail Roost Drive
  • SW 200th Street/Caribbean Blvd
  • SW 216th Street

While most of the expressways on the 1969 transportation study were killed, the South Dade Expressway had support among Dade County officials and would be built shortly upon the release of the study. However, there would be twist and turns along the way.

Construction began in 1971 on the portion of the South Dade Expressway from the Palmetto to the West Dade Expressway, which was also being built alongside the South Dade as a pair. Initially, the rest of the South Dade would be built as well. However, shortly after construction began, Dade County residents overwhelmingly voted to use funding directed toward building the expressways from its plan toward funding mass transit projects and the planned Metrorail.

This killed the entire expressway plan, almost. With the funding now being used toward transit, it was clear that Dade County was not going to complete the South Dade and West Dade expressways. Rather than having uncompleted expressways on their hands, Dade County looked to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for help.

FDOT immediately stepped in with their own plans for completing both expressways. First of all, the South Dade Expressway would become a toll road, which was not part of the original plans but needed to raise funds for its construction costs.

In a change of verbiage, the portion of the South Dade from the West Dade/transition to the South Dixie was renamed the West Dade Expressway. This was only logical, as you can see in the second illustration.

The remaining part of the West Dade Expressway from the South Dade interchange to Krome Avenue was cancelled. The rest of the West Dade was then taken over by the Florida Turnpike Authority which incorporated the road as part of the Homestead Extension of Florida's Turnpike (HEFT).

Construction on the South Dade Expressway resumed according to plans, and a toll plaza was constructed between Killian Parkway and HEFT. It was the only toll plaza constructed, and none of the entrance or exit ramps were tolled. Construction was completed and the South Dade Expressway opened to traffic in mid-1974.

One interesting feature of the South Dade Expressway is a pair of pullout lanes at the SW 88th Street (Kendall Drive) interchange, at the northbound exit ramp and southbound entrance ramp. There are bus benches and pavilions at the side of the lanes, and this suggests that the South Dade was originally intended to accommodate a mass transit line. There are no transit lines on any South Florida freeways, including the South Dade, which makes this feature all the more interesting. No other expressways were built with these lanes.

Today

Since its completion, the South Dade Expressway has remained unchanged, aside repaving and general maintenance projects.

While it had been 14 years upon its completion, the never built portion from HEFT to Krome Avenue had not been forgotten. In 1988, a proposal was floated by FDOT to build the road. This natural extension of the Don Shula was intended to give motorist a bypass to Homestead via a Krome Avenue upgraded to a freeway. This proposal was ultimately rejected by the Metro-Dade Commission, along with the Krome freeway plan.

In 1995, this proposal surfaced again. This time, FDOT concluded that rapid growth in the Deerwood and Three Lakes section of Kendall warranted an extension. In addition to the extension, the existing Don Shula would be widened and two toll plazas would be built to replace the existing one.

Alas, this did not happen. In December, 1994, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) was created, and two years later the Florida Legislature allowed MDX to assume operational and financial control of 5 expressways from FDOT, including the Don Shula Expressway. 

MDX has since then created a comprehensive 5 Year Work Program, but its has different items on its agenda than FDOT. It appears that the Don Shula Expressway extension is clearly dead, since it is not included on MDX's work program. What MDX does have in the works for the Don Shula however includes interchange modifications at Killian Parkway and the Snapper Creek Expressway, including new toll ramps at Killian Parkway and Kendall Drive where there are currently none. 

The plan also calls for reconstructing the mainline ramps to the Palmetto Expressway, removing the existing toll plaza and replacing it with new, separate plazas for northbound and southbound traffic. A new partial interchange with SW 117th Avenue and sound walls in the vicinity are also planned.

However, all of these improvements are not slated to happen until 2007 at the earliest, so for now the Don Shula will remain in its existing state for a few more years. But when all is said and done, the Don Shula remains a functional expressway with few traffic problems, and always moves at speed for the most part. The same cannot be said for other highways in South Florida.

Don Shula should be proud that his name is attached to a respectable freeway like this one, instead of one such as I-95 or the Palmetto Expressway.

Sources

  1. Associates, Mel Conner &, Inc. "Miami Urban Area Transportation Study: The Principal Street & Highway Plan - 1985" April 1969.
  2. Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. "MDX History" <http://www.mdx-way.com/history.cfm>
  3. Van Gieson, John. "Toll Road Costs Escalate As Gas Tax Fuel Debate". Miami Herald. 24 Jul. 1978. 
  4. Herald Staff. "South Dade Expressway Renamed". Miami Herald. 21 May 1983. 
  5. Chasko, Ana. "DOT Plan: A Longer, Wider Shula Expressway". Miami Herald. 20 Jul. 1995. 
  6. Denham, Terry. Florida Department of Transportation. "RE: Snake Creek Expressway". Personal E-mail, 16 Sept. 2003. 
  7. Other sources are personal experiences and/or personal observations.

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