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Front Page » Government » Should bridge funds go to Baylink?

Should bridge funds go to Baylink?

Written by on December 22, 2015
Should bridge funds go to Baylink?

Francis Suarez, Miami commissioner and vice chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transit Solutions Committee, may have taken aim at a sacred cow last week when he suggested a long-anticipated project be sidetracked and the funding diverted.

“The city has been pushing for a signature bridge on I-395, which will cost $800 million,” he told fellow committee members. The Florida Department of Transportation has committed to funding it, but Mr. Suarez questioned its importance.

Having driven across the bridge recently, “There’s nothing particularly wrong with it,” he said. “It’s not a bottleneck and it doesn’t need to be done right away.”

That $800 million would pay for Miami and Miami Beach’s portion, and half of Miami-Dade County’s portion, of the Baylink system to connect the two cities across Biscayne Bay, he said.

“I look at this as an anti-parochial idea,” Mr. Suarez said, noting that the signature bridge would be entirely in the City of Miami. “This is looking more on a regional level.”

The project was fully funded in 1996, said Javier Rodriguez, executive director of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. “It is just to replace what’s there, nothing fancy. The bridge has multiple practical and structural deficiencies, he said. “There is no continuous through lane; you have to keep merging and weaving, and that’s an accident waiting to happen.”

The authority is not contributing to the bridge re-do, which he estimates will cost about $600 million, but is making improvements to State Road 836 from Northwest 17th Avenue to I-95, which will cost about $160 million.

Traffic planners briefly considered taking the road underground, which would free up more space in the current Museum Park, but that idea was rejected, Mr. Rodriguez said.

“The reality of it is that every time a project is de-funded, our monies are taken to another part of state,” said Maurice Ferre, committee member and former Miami mayor. Projects are frequently shelved for political reasons, he said, after having gone through years of vetting by various agencies, including the Metropolitan Planning Organization. “In each case, what happened to the money? It wasn’t left here.”

“I’m a bird-in-the-hand kind of guy,” said Dennis Moss, committee chair and Miami-Dade County commissioner. Despite the commitment from the state transportation agency, “We have to find the funding for all of our projects. Everybody is trying to cooperate, and that’s a good thing.”

“This is a call for ideas,” Mr. Suarez said. “This is not about killing a project. But if it was funded in ’96 and is still not done, there’s a problem. The people of Overtown would much prefer a park that is double in size than what we have to a signature bridge they get nothing out of.”


9 Responses to Should bridge funds go to Baylink?

  1. Big John

    December 23, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Put it to a public vote for a bridge or BayLink and BayLink would win 10 to 1. Give us our half penny tax money back that you lying thieves stole from us all of these years.

  2. DC Copeland

    December 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Ditto to Big John.

  3. Irwin Se;tzer

    December 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Yes, yes, yes Commisioner Suarez!! Please do not waste $800 million in public dollars for a replacement “signature” bridge for cars when this region is in desperate need of new non-car alternative transportation infrastructure. Baylink is perfect example of a project where some of these dollars should go instead.

  4. Edward

    December 23, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I agree baylink should be fully funded.

  5. DC Copeland

    December 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Ditto that too, Irwin Se;tzer!

  6. Dan Morales

    December 27, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Well that’s a no-brainer! Kill the bridge, fund the light rail. What is it with Miami politicians and not having visions of mass transit projects that make sense using ALL forms of rail? It seems like the only traffic gridlock solutions these folks have is to just widen roads. I say fire them all and lets elect politicians with true visions for real “big city transit” solutions, like Denver and Portland.

  7. marc

    December 29, 2015 at 9:52 am

    You guys know that price tag is not just the bridge? It’s for the whole rebuild and redesign of I-395 that FDOT is doing this regardless of the bridge aesthetics. Take away the bridge and the rebuild is still happening costing the majority of that price tag.

    • Irwin Seltzer

      January 6, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      OK, then let’s subtract out the part of the $800 million that’s for bridge aesthetics. It would be a more responsible use of funds in a world where it seems impossible to get GPS on our ancient buses, bus shelters and a start on Baylink- a project that has been discussed as a transportation infrastructure priority for decades.

      • marc

        January 7, 2016 at 11:40 am

        That’s perfectly reasonable. By the way, I don’t know where Suarez gets the $800 million price from when it’s been published over and over again that the I-395 build price tag FDOT is spending is $500-600 million in state money. The bridge thingy is priced 1 to $200 million by the way.