Handling of Brickell Avenue Bridge openings causes rift
Written by John Charles Robbins on June 5, 2018
Miami River Commission members are fuming about being left out of action that impacts Brickell Avenue Bridge openings.
Frustration bubbled up at Monday’s meeting when Chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre spoke of learning – after the fact – of a formal request to the Coast Guard to alter schedules to keep the bridge locked down and open to street traffic during peak hours.
The Coast Guard is in charge of the bridge operation, as the Miami River is a federal navigable channel.
The letter went to the Coast Guard from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), apparently on the heels of some stakeholders approving the request. But Mr. Aguirre said any implication that there’s a consensus on bridge operations is false.
“The Miami River Commission in not onboard [with this latest action],” Mr. Aguirre said. “The Miami River Commission has not heard this matter recently [and we’ve] not reached a consensus.”
Mr. Aguirre said he and Brett Bibeau, commission managing director, attended a meeting this year of those interested in bridge operations hosted by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and attended by representatives of the state transportation department, Coast Guard and others.
Mr. Aguirre said the 45-minute meeting ended with the parties amicably agreeing to meet again and the Coast Guard indicating it was open to options.
But the second meeting never came, said Mr. Aguirre, who then learned of the letter to the Coast Guard.
Forcefully, Mr. Aguirre said: “We did not – we did not agree to anything.”
Without objection from commission members, Mr. Aguirre said the bridge operation will get a full public airing next month.
“We will put this on the agenda for July, and I will invite all the parties… and everyone can present their point of view,” he said. “We will have a full-blown hearing.” The meeting will be July 9.
The Miami River Marine Group, DDA, Coast Guard, FDOT “and any other stakeholder” will be invited, Mr. Aguirre said. He stressed the need to get a transportation department official there to discuss current traffic flow on the bridge.
“As of today, 66% of the travel lanes are closed. This needs to be discussed,” he said.
The DDA has long sought solutions for Brickell-to-downtown gridlock and waged battle with the Coast Guard, state transportation department and the river commission over what it says are improper openings of the bridge that bring traffic to a standstill downtown and in surrounding areas.
When the bridge is up, road traffic snarls and downtown and Brickell businesses are impacted. When the bridge is down and ships await a scheduled opening, it impacts the marine industry.
The river commission has recommended more than a dozen ways to ease conflict surrounding bridge openings, including opening all three lanes to motor vehicles, installing pedestrian gates and employing “white glove” security officers to reduce long openings when pedestrians continue to cross the bridge after warning signals, real-time signage on bridge approaches telling motorists to take a different route, and more.
The river commission also supports boring a tunnel under the river.