West Bridge Construction Update

Dear Neighbors,

The upcoming West Bridge construction will restrict Venetian Way residents, services, and emergency vehicles to a single point of entry and exit across the East Bridge.

Recent East Bridge malfunctions, as well as current plans by the county for a November construction that hits Miami Beach’s peak season, could cause major inconveniences for residents, city services, and causeway traffic.

In the worst case, an extended East Bridge malfunction, particularly during weekend or special events, might put residents in harm’s way and collapse traffic around the congested Alton, 17th St. and West Avenue bottleneck.

Your VIHA officers have met repeatedly with the officials and agencies involved in rebuilding the West Bridge span, as they have the power to prevent these negative consequences for residents, businesses, and the city itself.

There are two major West Bridge construction solutions that could positively affect our quality of life as residents:

1-Keeping the East Bridge locked down to ensure 24/7 vehicular access on and off of the islands at all times. Boat traffic would be routed through the West Bridge, which will remain open throughout construction.

2-Time the construction to avoid detrimental impact on our congested peak season.

On the matter of the proposed lock-down of the East Bridge, the elected leaders of Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach are very interested in mitigating the effects of the West Bridge construction for the residents and businesses of Miami Beach.

Several Venetian Way and adjacent neighborhood associations have united on this subject. We’ve joined Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Mayor Philip Levine in emphatically supporting the full lock-down of the East Bridge by the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has been on top of this matter. Rear Admiral Korn and his staff have not only fast-tracked this subject locally, but they have managed to substantially condense a year-long assessment period. The East Bridge matter will hit Washington DC on Monday and within 2 weeks will be printed in the Federal Register calling for written comments within 30 days.

This is THE MAIN OPPORTUNITY for residents and affected parties to provide proper arguments on which the Coast Guard will base its decision. Please keep in mind, the Coast Guard looks for detailed arguments and discourages simplistic “I want it closed” letters or bulk-signed neighborhood petitions.

The Coast Guard will take a couple of weeks to assess the feedback, and a week or two to decide and communicate it to the public.

The second matter, proposing to delay the start of the West Bridge construction to avoid hitting the chaotic high season (December through May) is still unresolved. It will be our immediate focus at the Neighborhood Associations level.

To be clear, no one is proposing anything at the expense of safety.  Bridge engineers will determine the maintenance needed by the West Bridge. If it absolutely MUST be built right away, so be it. But we believe it can be delayed by a short 5 months.

Need anyone be reminded of the benefits of avoiding construction during Miami Beach’s high season?

We will all work hard to avoid this outcome.   If the East Bridge closure is pushed to May, providing a 50-70% boating reduction, even the Coast Guard’s decision might be favorably affected.

We will keep you informed of our progress!



For YOUR information…

Bridge construction, drawbridge closure, and timing are important, even emotional subjects to many neighbors. In order to help you and new residents understand who the decision makers are, and with whom your association focuses it’s arguments, we’ve put together a brief summary of who’s involved:

Miami-Dade County (MDC)-Has oversight and maintains the Venetian Way roadway, fixed bridges, and the East and West Bascule drawbridges. Their goal is to construct and resolve this West Bridge issue as soon as possible, as well as protect and extend the lifetimes of the other VW bridges through prudent load limits.

The City of Miami Beach (CMB)- Has no authority over the Venetian Way and it’s bridges. But it’s residents and it’s traffic are affected. It can flex it’s hotel-tax and tourist destination muscles persuasively with the County and the agencies.

CMB is doing a great job with our roadway improvement and neighborhood Capital Investment Program (CIP). But knowing all road projects inconvenience residents and businesses, CMB is rushing to finish key roads before high season arrives. They must persuade MDC not to begin bridge construction during our chaotic high season.

The Coast Guard (CG)- Are the final word on bridge operations. A change requires a year-long internal and public process. And they remind us that a great number of other islands successfully coexist with a single bascule bridge.

With management of the security, use of, and waterway laws, the GC considers the needs of the impacted: VW residents, leisure boats and commercial boating . The comment, “Waterways came first, man-made islands came later” clarifies for VW residents they aren’t the GC’s only priority.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)- Responsible for managing our current infrastructure and properly planning for it’s future growth needs as well. While not a key player in the West Bridge construction and implications, they are our allies in the long term. Why?

Due to both the deterioration of all VW bridges, and the inevitable damage of rising seas, FDOT has already begun a multi-year study to determine how to best replace all the VW bridges during the 2020 decade.

Miami Beach and VW Residents (you)- May face longer and lengthier commutes, reduced or costlier island services, and major stress should the East Bridge malfunction. Directly, or through their neighborhood association, they can and should participate to influence the officials and agencies determining the outcome.