Transit panel asks state to reconsider traffic ramp at port
By Deserae del Campo
As Miami-Dade County works on a method to build a tunnel for the Port of Miami, a freight committee is asking the state transportation department to revisit a study for a slip ramp at Northwest Sixth Street from the port to I-95 as a short-term step to siphon off truck traffic.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization halted the project development and environmental study that included the slip ramp in 2003, pulling it from the transportation improvement program and long-term transportation plan, said Alice Bravo, district planning and environmental management engineer for the state Department of Transportation.
A slip ramp is a connector that allow motorist to "slip" from one roadway to another.
The planning organization developed the long-range transportation plan to look at future needs for Miami-Dade. The transportation improvement program is a five-year priority list of federally funded projects, and all other transportation projects, funded by the state and locally.
"When the study started we were looking at building a slip ramp on Northwest Eighth Street, but it was rejected by Overtown residents," Ms. Bravo said. "We then decided to work the slip ramp from Northwest Fifth and Sixth streets, but that idea was rejected by Miami Dade College and the downtown courthouse."
Ms. Bravo says issues arose regarding pedestrian and child safety along with air and noise affecting the community.
"There was intensive public involvement," said Catherine Owen, the state transportation department's district cultural resources coordinator and environmental manager. "I heard a lot of the community's concerns.
"We received a letter in October 2003 from the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center and the Overtown Advisory Board," she said. "They asked for a 'no-build alternative' to the project because of the negative impact the slip ramp would have in the neighborhood."
Inbound traffic to the Port of Miami already has direct access from State Road 836 via I-95 to Northwest Fifth Street, said Larry Foutz, transportation system manager for the Metropolitan Planning Organization. "This slip ramp would allow outbound traffic to exit downtown via Northwest Sixth Street on a new ramp to I-95 that would allow traffic to head west on State Road 836."
The Freight Transportation Advisory Committee passed a resolution Aug. 16 asking the Metropolitan Planning Organization to restore the I-95/Northwest Sixth Street ramp project to its long-range transportation plan and improvement program.
The resolution also asked the Florida Department of Transportation to resume the project development and environmental study for the slip ramp and for the department and City of Miami to work with the community to craft a plan that would lessen any impacts to the neighborhood, Mr. Foutz said.
The resolution will now head to a Sept. 28 planning organization board meeting for approval or denial.
The first project development and environmental study that began in 2002 and ended in 2003 cost $500,000. If the planning organization approves the resolution, the state would need to start the study from scratch.
Ms. Bravo says by the time the study for the slip ramp is finished, designs are completed and construction begins, the Port of Miami tunnel may already be under way. "Investing in a slip ramp at the same time as the tunnel is just not worth it," Ms. Bravo said.
Other short-term ideas to alleviate port traffic have been looked at, such as extending port operating hours to 24 hours, seven days a week, and creating a reservation system for trucks coming into the port.
Mr. Foutz says creating a reservation system and extending operating hours is part of the Port of Miami Freight Access Study being prepared by consultants Cambridge Systematics that is to be finished in October.