State Road 924 is the Gratigny Parkway, a partial east-west expressway across North Dade, serving Opa-Locka, the Opa-Locka Airport, Hialeah, and Miami Lakes. In the east, SR 924 starts out as the surface street Gratigny Drive/NW 119th Street in North Miami. At NW 32nd Avenue, it becomes a freeway until its terminus at the I-75 and Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) interchange. The basic road continues west of the Palmetto as the beginning of I-75. The name Gratigny came from the names of the landowners who owned land in the vicinity of the road prior to development.
Don't let the phrase "parkway" fool you. The Gratigny is full freeway standard, with 6 lanes throughout. Interchanges are at the LeJeune/Douglas Connector (5 ramp, SE partial cloverleaf) and W 4th Avenue/NW 57th Avenue (5 ramp, SW partial cloverleaf). The interchange with I-75 and the Palmetto Expressway is a 3 level interchange with flyover and loop ramps.
To get a better understanding of the Gratigny Parkway, I highly recommend you visit the freeway planning page
The Gratigny Parkway was first proposed in the 1969 Miami Urban Area Transportation Study, dubbed as the "Opa-Locka Expressway". For those who look at maps of Miami, you will notice there is only one major east-west expressway, in the central part of Dade County. The plan for the Opa-Locka Expressway was to bridge the east-west gap in North Dade, roughly paralleling the existing Gratigny Drive/NW 119th Street.
The expressway was to run from the proposed Interama Expressway in the east to the junction of U.S. 27 and the proposed West Dade Expressway (now the Homestead Extension of Florida's Turnpike), along the way passing through North Miami, Opa-Locka, and Hialeah, before terminating at the proposed Interama Expressway and the Broad Causeway. Interchanges were planned at:
There is no planned interchange with I-95. This is because the Opa-Locka Expressway was designed to be an express route for traffic with long trips and avoided interchanges with certain roads to prevent redundant connections.
The Opa-Locka Expressway was one that Dade County and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials wanted to build, but funding was an issue. It survived the cancellation of most of the expressways from the transportation plan in the mid-1970s, but lack of funding put the Opa-Locka on the backburner until it was revived in the early 1980s.
However, a new issue was at stake. In the late 1960s, the area that the expressway would traverse was mostly white; but by the 1980s it was mostly African-American. Dade County wanted the full expressway to be built, but opposition by the minority residents effectively killed the portion from NW 27th Avenue to the Broad Causeway. By that point, the name of the projected road was changed to the Gratigny Parkway, in respect to the surface street that it would continue as.
Dade County and FDOT went ahead to build the remaining portion of the road. Yet another issue was boiling, costs. In 1982, FDOT officials told the North Dade Chamber of Commerce that the expressway would probably be built as a toll road, after a feasibility study was nearly complete. Although at that time, the advent of tolls was marginally feasible, but ultimately this became the fate of the long phantom roadway. In 1983, the Gratigny was given the green light to be built as a toll road. Land acquisition began shortly thereafter.
If these issues weren't enough, there was more opposition, this time from residents of Hialeah and Miami Lakes. They didn't want the Gratigny to be built period, and in 1984 the city of Hialeah went as far to modify its city charter to oppose the construction of the Gratigny, despite FDOT having already purchased 90% of the land needed to build it.
While they did not want the expressway period, they especially did not want an interchange with NW 67th Avenue/W 12th Avenue. In October 1984, after fighting from both sides, FDOT deleted the interchange from their plans.
Progress At Last
The Gratigny Parkway was ready to be built. During the first week of December 1987, construction finally started on the long anticipated road. Construction began on the westernmost sections first, moving toward the east. After a little over than four years on January 6, 1992, the Gratigny opened all of its 4.5 miles to traffic, at the cost of $39.2 million. With the amount of time traveling across North Dade cut in half, Hialeah and Miami Lakes residents quickly changed their feelings of resentment to happiness and embraced the new expressway.
At first, the Gratigny opened to traffic volumes that were slightly below projected levels, as many people could not find the road. FDOT signs the road at simply SR 924 and makes no mention of its name on signs. However, once articles were published in the Miami Herald on how to find the road, traffic took off.
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 Gratigny Parkway.
The only change made to the Gratigny Parkway to date was the addition of a third lane in each direction from NW 57th Avenue to the Palmetto Expressway in 2001. This was not so much due to congestion, but the rest of Gratigny aside from that section was built with 6 lanes originally, so it was to reduce the bottleneck effect of losing a lane of traffic. Besides that, it has been nothing but smooth sailing for motorists on the Gratigny Parkway.
In 2000-2001, MDX started replacing the standard state road shields on the toll expressways with TOLL shields found on other toll roads throughout the rest of Florida.
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