Miami merits a signature bridge

 

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and Tower Bridge in London are vital infrastructure links for these international cities. They are also landmarks and sources of pride for those communities. As a global center for business, culture and tourism, downtown Miami deserves an iconic bridge, too.

But the Florida Department of Transportation’s stripped-down design for Interstate 395 in downtown Miami falls far short of iconic. Plans to upgrade the bridge have been in the making for more than 20 years. In fact, when FDOT first began working on solutions for a new bridge in the early 2000s, community reaction was so negative that FDOT was required by the federal government to go through the most restrictive of their public processes.

After FDOT held more than 76 public meetings and countless assurances that it was committed to building a signature bridge, a citizens committee shortlisted a number of designs that would embody downtown Miami’s status as a gateway to our city, the state of Florida and, to many, the Americas.

Despite the commitments and decisions made through that public process, FDOT has now stealthily introduced another option for consideration: a segmental box bridge that provides zero aesthetic appeal, runs contrary to the world-class design Miami was promised and cannot be considered a signature bridge.

Downtown Miami is home to more 70,000 residents and welcomes more than 2 million visitors annually. Flanking the I-395 bridge are the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, AmericanAirlines Arena, home to our championship Miami Heat, and Museum Park, site of the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, now under construction. These venues were conceived with aesthetic excellence in mind, and our urban core is stronger because of those design decisions. Billions of investment dollars have poured into downtown Miami in the past 10 years. The public and private sectors have clearly done their part to support downtown Miami’s role as an economic driver. It is time for FDOT to step up and fulfill its commitment to do the same.

Miami’s residents and visitors should not be shortchanged with a scaled-down segmental box bridge that will turn back the clock on the strides we are making in downtown. If we are to continue developing Miami as a global city, then we must make infrastructure investments worthy of that title.

Miami deserves nothing less than a signature bridge linking Miami with Miami Beach, and FDOT should take the segmental box bridge option off the table before additional dollars are spent pursuing this substandard option.

Alyce M. Robertson, executive director, Downtown Development Authority, Miami

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