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Front Page » Transportation » Downtown bridge openings broke rules

Downtown bridge openings broke rules

Written by on November 26, 2014
Downtown bridge openings broke rules

The battle of the bridge has been joined, directors of Miami’s Downtown Development authority learned Friday.

In September, authority chair and Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff alleged that tenders of bridges, including the Brickell Avenue Bridge, are breaching an agreement reached several years ago to keep bridges locked down during morning, lunch and evening rush hours. Authorities are putting the interests of the marine industry before those of commuters, he said. Board member Richard Lydecker, who is senior partner in the Lydecker-Diaz law firm, agreed his firm would look into the matter pro bono.

Last week, Alex Tirado-Luciano and Alan S. Feldman, an associate and a partner in that firm respectively, presented their report to the authority.

A statute that locks bridges down from 7:35 to 8:59 a.m., 12:05 to 12:59 p.m., and 4:35 to 5:59 p.m. is not being enforced, they said.

In surveying bridge-tenders’ logs on the Brickell Avenue, Miami Avenue and Southwest First Street bridges from July, August and September, they found numerous reports of bridges being opened for sailboats, sport-fisherman boats and other pleasure craft during the restricted times. Ships pushed or pulled by tugboats (such as freighters and barges), government vessels and boats in distress are exempted from the lockdown rule.

“There are one to 15 of these openings per month” on the Brickell Avenue Bridge alone, Mr. Tirado-Luciano said, and that bridge carries the majority of traffic downtown.

“Tell citizens what’s going on,” he urged, “and consider legal action against the vessel owners, the Coast Guard, the Florida Department of Transportation and Miami-Dade County’s waste management department.” The transportation department owns the Brickell Avenue and Miami Avenue bridges; the solid waste department owns the Southwest First Avenue bridge.

Those moves will be controversial, Mr. Sarnoff warned. After his initial comments, “I got a letter calling me all sorts of names,” he said.

In an Oct. 7 letter obtained by Miami Today, US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Mr. Sarnoff, “I would like to remind you of the significant positive impact that our local Miami River’s maritime commerce industry has on our community’s economy and the severe detrimental impact that additional drawbridge closures would have on those who rely on this working waterway for their livelihoods…

“Appropriate and sensible access will ensure that our Miami River will continue to be a dependable asset for our community and our residents for years to come,” said Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s letter in part, on which Rear Admiral John H. Korn, commander of the Coast Guard’s seventh district, and the Miami River Marine Group, were copied.

“Sooner or later we will need a tunnel,” said board member Alan Ojeda, who is president of Rilea Development Group. “Someone should do some numbers.”

“You’re absolutely right about a tunnel,” said board member Alicia Cervera, who is managing partner of Cervera Real Estate. Her company owns a boatyard on the Miami River, and she said there is confusion about bridge openings and closings. “They should be posted on all docks, like the warnings about manatees.”

“I don’t think we can take action against boat owners,” Mr. Lydecker said, “but we can train them and follow up to see if they follow the rules.”

There was doubt, especially among development authority board members who are boaters, whether the bridge-tenders’ logs were accurate.

“A lot of sport boats sneak in behind or in front of the tugs, so the tenders are not writing them down,” said board member Jose Goyanes, who is owner of Metro Beauty Center, Churchill’s Barbershop and Tre Italian Bistro. “Go get yourself a drink at the Epic Hotel and you’ll see how many times that bridge opens. You can even videotape it.” The hotel overlooks Biscayne Bay and the Brickell Avenue Bridge.

“We should do an audit on our own,” Mr. Sarnoff said. He also suggested a public information campaign. “Let’s create a really cool document, one the average Joe can read.”

Especially with downtown’s recent residential growth, “We’re pushing twice as many people through those bridges,” Mr. Lydecker said.

The authority board vowed to continue the fight to stop the bridges from opening during rush hours and will consider asking for additional midday bridge lockdown time, which Mr. Sarnoff said was promised but not delivered.

7 Responses to Downtown bridge openings broke rules

  1. DC Copeland

    November 26, 2014 at 11:13 am

    No mention of any signage on the bridges stating opening/closing hours. You’d hope there is but, since this is Miami, probably not. That would be too easy. Or not. Since this is also Miami-Dade County, those signs on the bridges for boaters would have to be awfully big since the law requires county signage be printed in English, Spanish, and Creole.

    • Ruben S

      November 26, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Actually, there are signs. I walk these bridges regularly, almost on a daily basis, and signs are posted stating the times the drawing bridge should not open. All you need is to look up.

      Glad the DDA is finally stepping in. Drawing the bridge during high traffic hours gets many people irritated, as it is extremely inconsiderate. This, plus the mess that Brickell AVE and Miami AVE have become, makes it difficult for drivers. Glad I walk everywhere. Hopefully this helps people adjust to the reality that we need to walk or use public transportation to get around.

  2. Erin

    November 26, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Miami needs help with signage. They don’t post signage appropriately and this also includes highways.

  3. Erin

    November 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I remember during Friday evening rush hour and downtown’s Ultra Fest when the Bridge tender opened the bridge, left her tower and LOCKED HERSELF OUT (Brickel bridge)…Traffic was stuck for 1.5 hours while everyone waited for someone to come to the tower with a spare key!!!
    Who would leave the tower with the bridge up!!! No common sense.

  4. DC Copeland

    November 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Hey, this is Miami. We don’t do things the usual way. In fact, I think that once was a CofC slogan for a poster.

  5. Edin Coralic

    November 30, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Just build a tunnel, like one in FL..

  6. DC Copeland

    December 1, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Tunnels are very expensive. However, a public/private partnership could make it happen. May I suggest for absorbing half of the cost of building the tunnel, that the private investor be given the rights to build on both sides of the river where the bridges use to cross. For example, at the Brickell Ave bridge crossing, two multi-story, multi-use towers would be built on each side of the river in exchange for paying half the costs of building the tunnel. Since the river isn’t that wide, a Miami-defining architectural (and engineering) design element might include a pedestrian/lounge/restaurant “bridge” that connects both buildings, straddling the river high above ships traveling unimpeded below.