A second east-bound lane on the Bear Cut Bridge that connects Virginia Key to Key Biscayne has been opened, giving travelers heading to the village a second lane nearly two months after structural flaws nearly shut down the bridge.
Public works administrators said they reconfigured the roadway to make more room for the second lane. On Wednesday, the first day it was in use, they said vehicular and bike traffic flowed smoothly to and from Key Biscayne, on what used to be the eastbound-only lanes headed to Key Biscayne.
Two ad-hoc westbound lanes remain in place, next to a dedicated bicycle/pedestrian lane, along the north side of the bridge.
The bridge’s westbound lanes on the structure’s south side have been completely shut down since the Florida Department of Transportation raised concerns with the county about the condition of exposed steel beams and girders in early January. The westbound half of the bridge was built in 1944; its eastern counterpart is much younger, built in 1983 in concrete-encased beams.
Though alternate planning has been underway for well over a month, county and Key Biscayne leaders are still concerned about the March 18 opening of the two-week Sony Open tennis tournament at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Key Biscayne.
A month ago, hoping to speed up repairs, county commissioners waived the usual competitive bidding process, giving firms two weeks instead of the usual six to bid on the repair work. The repair job is still expected to take almost a year, and cost close to $31 million.
To finance the plan the county will issue bonds which will be paid off with toll receipts. Commissioners voted last month to raise the toll for cars to $1.75 from $1.50.
A casualty of the Bear Cut repair plan will be the Crandon Park Marina boat launch, which will shut down for two weeks from March 18-31, as the bridge undergoes repairs. Alternate county launch sites are no where near Key Biscayne.
The locations are: Herbert Hoover Marina at Homestead Bayfront Park, 9698 SW 328th St., Black Point Marina, 24775 SW 87th Ave., Matheson Hammock Marina, 9610 Old Cutler Rd., Pelican Harbor Marina, 1275 NE 79th St., and Bill Bird Marina at Haulover Park, 10800 Collins Ave.