Traffic Terror?


Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower called for an emergency meeting of the city commission this week in advance of the closing of the MacArthur Causeway flyover exit to Alton Road in South Beach. The emergency item: commissioners and residents were unaware that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had changed the plans and there would be daylight disruption to the massive traffic that traverses the route.

The closure is scheduled to begin Sunday, July 14 and continue for a month. It’s part of a larger improvement effort aimed at adding pump stations to a part of the city plagued by regular flooding, particularly in the summer rainy season.

“What we are really upset about is that nobody knew about it,” said Bower, following the meeting and discussion with FDOT representatives. “They were going to be working only at night, it was going to be closed only at certain times, and it was going to happen over six months.”

Bower said that FDOT decided that overnight construction would create a noise nuisance to adjacent communities and that they could complete the project much quicker with the daytime closure.

“They also said it was safer,” Bower pointed out. “They didn’t say it exactly, but I think it’s less dangerous having people work out there in the daytime.”

As a result of the closure, some traffic will be re-routed into residential neighborhoods and streets that parallel Alton Road, both northbound and southbound on Alton Road.

Commissioner Jerry Libbin said that after the lengthy discussion with FDOT representative, he believes the traffic mitigation plan being put in place should work when it comes to preventing massive congestions at the major access point to Miami Beach.

“The way they described the plan, it should work and should allow a constant flow of traffic,” Libbin said. “The ramifications to the neighborhoods are not yet known.”

Libbin said he inquired about how weather could affect the project and that FDOT is confident it is prepared for inclement weather – including should they need to remove machinery and other materials in the case of a hurricane. Libbin was also pleased that off-duty Miami Beach police officers will be used by, and paid for by, FDOT.

“That’s a good thing because Miami Beach officers have a better feel for the people of the city,” Libbin said.

Additionally, Libbin said FDOT officials said that area schools affected by the closure will be contacted and informed of the project.

The question of being informed about the project was a key to the commission’s collective ire this week.

“I am deeply disappointed and upset at the latest development with FDOT and the Alton Road Project regarding the flyover,” Commissioner Michael Gongora told SunPost. “I personally have been very unhappy with the FDOT Alton Road construction project from the get-go.  Last year, Commissioner Weithorn and I were the only two votes on the commission against granting FDOT the easements to do the Alton Road project as we were not satisfied with the project. Residents are totally in the right in being upset and I will continue to fight to make the Alton Road project better for Miami Beach.”

While residents and the city commission were surprised when the new project plans were made public last week, Libbin pointed out that perhaps, the City shouldn’t have been in the dark.

“The administration has some of the responsibility,” Libbin said. FDOT, he said, had informed Miami Beach via electronically transmitted letter around June 24, but the information slipped through the cracks.

Still, Libbin said that FDOT expressed confidence that the project would be completed on time, despite fairly light financial penalties if they do not. Libbin said there was even general commission support for the idea of the City contributing to a fund to incentivize timely completion.

In the meantime, the closure begins this weekend.

“There really isn’t anything we could do about it,” Bower said.

Libbin said the bottom line is that the closure is going to move forward.

“There really isn’t an option,” Libbin said. “It isn’t like they said at the meeting that if we didn’t like it, they won’t do it.”

About Michael W Sasser

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