Two ways on Eighth sought to ease Brickell traffic
By Sherri C. Ranta
Converting Southwest Eighth Street to two-way traffic between Brickell and South Miami avenues could alleviate traffic congestion worsened by the opening of the Brickell Avenue Bridge, officials said.
The city will soon finance an engineering study to determine the cost and feasibility of the proposed street conversion, a project that could cost as much as $500,000, according to Albert Dominguez, assistant director of public works for the City of Miami. The study was delayed a year because of financing problems, officials said.
Mr. Dominguez said City Manager Carlos Jimenez is committed to getting the project done by the end of the year and finding city money for the study and transition work.
The conversion of Eighth Street, a state road, would also require approval by the Florida Department of Transportation, officials said.
"There have been a large number of complaints in that area," Mr. Dominguez said. "Both the business association and Downtown Development Authority asked us to look into it."
The Brickell Avenue Bridge, north of the Eighth Street-Brickell Avenue intersection, opened an average of 700 times a month last year, according to state statistics. The bridge opens on demand on weekends, but is locked down on weekdays from 7:30-9 a.m. and 4:30-6 p.m.
Mr. Dominguez said city officials think making Eighth Street two-way between Brickell and South Miami avenues will act as an escape valve. When the bridge opens about every 25 minutes for four minutes traffic comes to a standstill on Brickell Avenue and backs up to the intersections of Seventh and Eighth streets.
The two-way designation on Eighth Street, Mr. Dominguez said, would give drivers an alternative to sitting in traffic and give those east of Brickell and those coming from Brickell Key the ability to go east on Eighth Street. At present, drivers must go north and turn on Southwest Seventh Street to go east.
Both the Brickell Area Association and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation committee advocated the change, said Swire Properties Inc. representative Megan Kelly.
"From the analysis that we've done" at the chamber, she said, "the roadway on both sides of the river shuts down for about 20 minutes every hour, particularly during the peak morning hours between 9 a.m.- noon. Everyone on Brickell is impacted at one time or the other."
Mr. Dominguez said the study will identify what needs to be done to make Eighth Street a two-way boulevard between Brickell and South Miami Avenue. Some changes could include signals at intersections, a state-required rule to repave the road, removal of a light pole and the relocation of trees.
"We may end up having to do a lot at night," Mr. Dominguez said. "Then costs skyrockets."
Workers get premium pay, police officers must supervise traffic and even the asphalt suppliers must work at night, he said.
Depending on the scope and size of the project and probable financing sources, the Florida Department of Transportation could issue a permit to the city to make the conversion, said Gus Pego, director of operations for the department's District 6 division.
However, he said, if the project requires a large amount of money, it could also be sent to the Metropolitan Planning Organization for review and be placed on a priority list, a lengthy process.