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West Miami-Dade

$11.4 million grant to help build pedestrian bridge for FIU students


Special to the Miami Herald

Crossing busy Southwest Eighth Street in West Miami-Dade should become a lot safer for Florida International University students and pedestrians in Sweetwater.

Florida International University was awarded a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant for $11.4 million. The grant may be used starting in February for a project that includes a pedestrian overpass bridge over Eighth Street and 109th Avenue, sidewalks and landscaping improvements.

Sweetwater and FIU teamed up to help get the grant. Mayor Jose Diaz said this was a dream of his that has finally become a reality.

“I think it would be perfect for an overpass or a skyline way,” he said. “People thought I was crazy. … I expressed my thoughts to the former mayor and commission.”

The bridge will be located in the city’s university district, which includes the area between 107th and 109th avenues and between Sixth and Seventh streets, with a small portion that will possibly go farther north up to Fourth Street.

The grant took about three years to be approved.

Diaz said the city is preparing for a population boom in students living in the city and said adding the bridge would go a long way toward improving safety.

“In the next five years, we might have 2,000 students crossing the street,” he said. “It’s going to impact the traffic.”

FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus is between Southwest 107th Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike, south of Eighth Street, just outside Sweetwater’s city limits.

Student dorms are undergoing construction within city limits, adjacent from the campus.

The 109 Tower, a 15-story private dorm with roughly 180 residential units plus first-floor retail, is now under construction on Southwest Seventh Terrace and 109th Avenue. Plans are for the building to be completed sometime in the spring. Diaz said that more dorms are expected.

FIU’s vice president of governmental relations, Stephen A. Sauls, said the bridge will unite the city and the school.

“It’ll look like a connection as opposed to two different worlds,” he said.

He also added that the bridge could be about six blocks in length, and that university students have played a role in designing the bridge. Although plans are still in the works, the project could be completed in 2017.

Aside from the bridge, the grant will also be used for sidewalk improvements and landscaping along 109th Avenue in Sweetwater, Diaz said.

“We will see art deco buildings, student housing, stores, coffee shops. We are projecting a 21st-century dream city,” Diaz said.

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