Port wants to reopen old bridge to ease traffic congestion
By Paola Iuspa
Port of Miami authorities will study reopening a retired bridge as an alternative route for passenger cars heading onto Dodge Island.
The old bridge could be used during periods of peak congestion from cargo trucks, cruise passengers and port employees, said Trenae Floyd, the port's spokeswoman. An average of 3,000 trucks travel the route each day.
The old drawbridge used to link Biscayne Boulevard on the mainland to the southern tip of the island close to Royal Caribbean's terminals. It runs parallel to the new bridge, which is an extension of Port Boulevard.
Port officials soon will start an engineering study on the safety of the old bridge, how long the conversion would take and what kind of traffic it could support, Ms. Floyd said.
"An engineering study will be conducted in the near future to ensure that the bridge is structurally sound," she said. "Once it is determined to be safe, we will use it to relieve traffic flow."
An operator of the port's only multi-user container facility said an alternative way to enter the port is necessary.
"We heard it (bridge reopening) was going to happen, and we are in favor," said Christopher Morton, vice president of P&O Ports Florida Inc., a partner in the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co.
He said traffic gets significantly backed up the day after a holiday as the number of trucks in and out of the port is doubled to catch up with work not done the previous day.
Mr. Morton, whose company was recently selected to be the master developer of a planned $171 million capital improvement port project, said lines of trucks waiting to get into the port have grown larger since authorities were forced to step up security measures after the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.
"There is more security now," he said. "It takes longer to check each truck."
The old bridge, built in the mid-1960s, was closed in March 1991, when the new one opened just yards north of it, Ms. Floyd said. The old drawbridge is now held in the open position to allow constant sailboat passage.
Although the old bridge is under the jurisdiction of the port, which is responsible for its maintenance, the Florida Department of Transportation would need to do an inspection to allow the reopening, said David Rosemond, agency public information officer.
Michael Sheehan, of Royal Caribbean International, said the old bridge would benefit anyone needing an alternative to reach the island. The cruise ship company has its world headquarters there and occupies two six-story buildings.
"This plan makes us happy because it would help our customers as well as our employees and other port guests," he said. "We applaud any constructive improvement the port could make to ease the flow of traffic."
The possible bridge reopening would not be part of the port's $171 million capital improvement program, ultimately aimed at separating cruise and cargo traffic, enhancing the flow of cruise ship-related traffic and helping freight trucks move through the cargo area faster.