Two-step plan geared to totally replace I-395
By Ashley D. Torres
The Florida Department of Transportation plans to renovate Interstate 395 to complement Port of Miami Tunnel construction and, beginning between 2021 and 2025, completely rebuild the expressway in what could become a public-private deal.
The department is to request funding for I-395 interim improvements, including bridge milling, widening and resurfacing, from the Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization in December to include in the 2011 Transportation Improvement Plan, said spokesperson Brian Rick via email.
The estimated cost of that is $7.5 million.
Interstate 395 connects the Port of Miami to Interstate 95. I-395 also feeds into the MacArthur Causeway, which in November is to have eastbound lanes moved 100 feet to create a larger median for the staging area support walls for the tunnel boring machine.
A complement to seaport tunnel construction, the interim improvement is to extend I-395 half a mile west. Three lanes would begin at the MacArthur Causeway bridge, taper in and eventually reduce to the existing two lanes, said Vilma Croft, project manager for the department's Planning & Environmental Management Office.
The improvements are due before the port tunnels open May 15, 2014.
Beyond interim improvements, the department aims to completely reconstruct I-395, which currently has entrance and exit ramps on Biscayne Boulevard. The proposed renovations are to keep I-395 elevated but move entrance and exit ramps to North Miami Avenue.
The renovations, Ms. Croft said, would combine capacity and safety improvements. The current I-395, according to department studies on 2040 traffic, can't handle more cars. Merging of traffic onto I-395 also isn't standard and can make it hard for drivers to enter and leave the thruway.
The reconstruction looks to create two continuous I-395 lanes from the Dolphin Expressway (State Road 836) to the MacArthur Causeway, Ms. Croft said. Currently, I-395 has only one continuous lane. The reconstructed I-395 would still have exit and entrance ramp merging lanes.
Current estimated cost of reconstruction, based on preliminary engineering, is $560 million.
"This project," Mr. Rick said, "is considered a major project funded [through] a multi-year process."
Final designs of the I-395 reconstruction are to begin in March. The department is now looking to hire an engineering firm to design the plans.
The reconstruction is in Miami-Dade County's 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, with construction to begin between 2021 and 2025.
"The department will also develop design build finance or public private partnership options," Mr. Rick said, "in an effort to advance construction."
However, before the department can let construction contracts, it plans to start acquiring right-of-way between 2015 and 2020.
According to Florida's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability, the right-of-way acquisition program enables the department to obtain land needed to construct and expand roads.