Letter from VIHA President

West Bridge closure, CIP’s pumping station upgrade to Venetian Islands, and Undergrounding!

Hello Venetians

During my summer absence our Board Member Ahmad Khamsi has participated in two important meetings with CIP and City Officials to discuss the West Bridge Closure, the pause in our CIP project in order to install effective pumps, and coordinating our Undergrounding project.

Streetscape:

The City Mgr. advised everyone that the West Bridge closure created a major challenge to the CIP project, as well as an inconvenience to residents. The risk of Lanzo’s construction equipment using the East Bridge while it’s the only point of entry and exit was untenable. He also confirmed having met with the Coast Guard in support of the total closure of the East bridge.

The West Bridge reconstruction shutdown has created additional complications for CIP, the City and residents.

First, the bypass to the East bridge contributes additional cost to the contractor’s price.

Second, the city cannot risk running heavy equipment over the East bridge while it’s the only point of entry and exit to the Venetian Way project.

CONCLUSION….

Due to the above, the City is considering rebidding the final CIP stage, fully confident that this will significantly lower the project’s cost. But they are clear that rebidding alone adds 6-9 months to our current December 2015 delivery.

VIHA Recommendations-

We support the City’s objective of reducing the CIP cost by rebidding the remainder of this project. And before we all blame the city for the original delay, remember that these pumping stations WILL provide our islands superior flood management.-they should have been included in the original project but weren’t!

– The City must halt CIP construction until the West Bridge reopens.   Construction starts in November and will take 6-9 months (end of April or July hopefully). Due to this delay, the City has agreed to pave all the islands.

– VIHA’s assessment: The dates are wishful thinking. And starting the bridge construction before December’s Art Basel will be catastrophic for our traffic. And prepare for a December 2015 date. But while VIHA was a prime mover in getting our CIP started, we agree with the city. Due to risk, the only option is to pause CIP. The City’s repaving our very damaged streets is, however, a very welcome move.

Undergrounding:

The City Attorney did a thorough presentation on the process to secure approval and funding of Undergrounding through a Special Tax District.

The Finance Director addressed the detailed costs of creating a Special Tax District.

The City of Miami Beach will support the Undergrounding Project of San Marino and Dilido, and facilitate the cooperation of FPL, ABB, and ATT in design and implementation. They will help us establish in the shortest time possible the Special Tax District required to approve and pay for undergrounding. The City and CIP will work to include our undergrounding in the final CIP design and rebid.

– FPL’s current grid is insufficient and it needs to underground the additional powering needs of the pumps for the City at additional cost ( this was confirmed to us at a recent meeting).

– San Marino and Dilido Undergrounding Project MUST be done before, or co-located with, the CIP construction project. When the street construction is finished, a 5 year moratorium on surface construction will be in place. Our only other option would be the cost-prohibitive directional boring that residents might balk at.

– VIHA’s recommendation-This is the very best chance we’ve ever had for Undergrounding San Marino and Dilido Islands. We’ve been trying to get this done for decades and it’s now within our reach. It will not only provide more robust power, phone, cable and Internet services, but beautify our Islands and homes as well. And it bumps us up on the premium real estate scale. It will raise real estate values.

East Bridge Closure:

The Coast Guard’s final decision on closing the East Bridge during the West Bridge construction period depends on the comments and well-reasoned arguments sent in by residents once this matter is printed on the National Register. We are on the lookout, and will let you know when it appears.

Letter From Michael Bauman Re: Venetian Causeway Sun Pass

Presidents,

On Sept 23 we plan to go-live under the SunPass system and discontinue the usage of the C-Pass.  This means annual plan holders must continue to use their C-Pass until the evening of the 23rd, when there will no longer be toll collection staff and SunPass signage will be in place.  It is important that all Venetian Annual plan account holders provide us with a 12 or 13 digit SunPass transponder number.

Please see below.  We will be sending this to everyone on our Venetian Causeway email list later today.

 Michael R Bauman, Chief

Causeways Division

Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Department

Rickenbacker and Venetian Causeways

2601 Brickell Ave

Miami, Fl 33129

305-285-9010

mikeb@miamidade.gov

 

We have had a tremendous response from our Venetian Causeway customers providing their SunPass transponder numbers and asking questions about the SunPass conversion. Thank you for passing the information along to the residents and commuters.

 

We are finding that some points need clarification:

 

          I.    The Causeway annual pass, for both property owners and commuters, will be provided through the County at the same cost. The only cost relating to the SunPass conversion is to purchase a SunPass and set up the account, if the customer does not already have an account. Some have stated that they were under the impression that there would be charges on their SunPass account in addition to their annual fee. There will be no additional charges as long as the customers have an active SunPass transponder and have reported the transponder number to the Causeways Division.

 

        II.    The Causeways Division will not have access to any customer’s SunPass account. Annual fees cannot be deducted from this account. Similarly, any fees charged to this account will originate from the Turnpike, not the Causeways Division, Public Works and Waste Management Department or Miami-Dade County.

 

       III.    The C-Pass or C-Card device must be used until the “go-live” date. This date, currently expected to be on September 23, 2014, will be publicly announced. Once the conversion occurs, only SunPass transponders will be read and the C-Pass or C-Card will be obsolete.

 

       IV.    After conversion, the customers may return the C-Pass or C-Card for a deposit refund. Processing time for refunds is approximately 90 to 120 days.

 

As promised, we will keep you informed.

Thank you,

 

Tollmaster

Causeways Division

Public Works and Waste Management Department

2601 Brickell Avenue

Miami, Florida 33129

 

Telephone: 305-285-9010

Email: tolls@miamidade.gov

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!

 

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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.

 

 

 

Commissioners Meeting on West Bridge Construction

The Miami Beach Commissioners Meeting on July 23, 2014 included a discussion of the West Bridge construction project.  After the head of the Transportation Department introduced details on the upcoming endeavor, a couple of very articulate Venetian Way neighbors provided public comment to the Commissioners, unwavering in their demand that the East Bridge remain locked down throughout the project.

During the six to nine months (or more) of the West Bridge construction, the Venetian Way residents will have only a single East Bridge access on and off of the Islands. Residents would like the East Bridge to be locked down to boaters (therefore not ever raising the bridge), and all boaters routed through the West Bridge, which will be open 24 hours a day throughout this process.

In this context, the “locked-down” argument is gaining traction from the mere fact that our East Bridge recently FAILED 3 times – and once for several hours. Imagine if this would happen while we are totally dependent on that bridge to enter or exit our neighborhoods.

The conclusion of this matter was that Mayor Phillip Levine and City Manager Jimmy Morales are now going to propose lock-down of the East Bridge to Miami/Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez at an upcoming lunch.

While it was clear that all of the commissioners are informed and on board on the preference for a complete lock-down of our East Bridge, there remains an aura of “it’s not really in our power, but in the hands of Miami-Dade County and the Coast Guard.”  A couple of commissioners even suggested that Venetian Way residents should lobby our respective County Commissioners themselves.

The truth is that OUR city officials have the power, contacts, and a very persuasive argument for bridge lock-down, and should aggressively take the lead in the discussions with the county officials.

We recommend that all interested residents continue to convey to our persuasive Mayor, Commissioners, and City Manager to take absolute leadership on this at the County level and with the Coast Guard, and that our officials only support the position that there is NO OPTION and no room for discussion other than a complete East Bridge lock-down during the construction of the West Bridge.

VIHA will continue to lobby the lock-down only position.

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Venetian Way Bridges Weight Limit Update!

At this same meeting it was mentioned that the East Bridge weight limit was about to be raised from 11 tons to 16 tons by the county. We will keep you posted on this too.

VIHA was officially represented at this meeting by Ahmad Khamsi, Board Member.

The Transition to Sun Pass

Dear Venetian Causeway Neighbors,

We are pleased to announce that the transition to SunPass is tentatively scheduled for Friday, August 29, 2014. When the conversion is complete, drivers will have improved travel time and traffic flow across the Causeway. Please be advised that in order to avoid per trip or Toll-By-Plate charges, each motorist must have a SunPass transponder. For annual plan holders, their account will be linked to their SunPass account so that they will not incur any additional charges.

In an effort to keep you informed of the progress:

ü A letter has been sent to all current annual plan holders to obtain their SunPass transponder numbers
ü All plan holder accounts will be updated with the SunPass transponder data
ü Flyers and other informational material will be distributed in the lanes and available at the Venetian Customer Service Center
ü Signage announcing the change will be in place
ü E-mail address tolls@miamidade.gov has been established to address questions and concerns

We will provide additional updates as needed.

Thank you,

Causeways Division