A soaring new bridge, almost 1,800 feet long, will open Friday, connecting the Dolphin Expressway to the Palmetto Expressway — one of the key pieces in the overhaul of the interchange between the two heavily traveled roadways next to Miami International Airport.
The bridge’s opening will require a different way for commuters driving from eastbound Dolphin Expressway, or State Road 836, to northbound Palmetto, or State Road 826.
In the past, drivers simply turned into a loop that connected the two highways. As of Friday, eastbound drivers on 836 must exit onto the new bridge ramp immediately after Northwest 87th Avenue to get to northbound 826, said Oscar González, a Florida Department of Transportation project spokesman.
If drivers miss the bridge ramp, they must continue east to the Northwest 72nd Avenue exit, then loop back onto westbound 836 to the northbound 826 ramp.
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The massive bridge — the first of four — is the final piece of a 12-section FDOT project to improve the Palmetto, González said.
The project has been going on for the past 20 years. When it is complete, sometime in 2015, there will be four levels of bridges at the interchange.
“This is the last piece of that puzzle,” González said.
Some motorists will go out of their way to avoid the hassle.
Suzanne Tamargo says the new bridge will not affect her commute, “unless [other drivers are] frustrated by that change and end up doing what I’m doing.”
She said she could take 836, but she prefers not to because of the traffic. She ends up taking 826 eastbound to the Golden Glades to get from her Miami Lakes home to her job in South Beach every day.
Juan Hernandez, a construction consultant who works in Doral, said he sometimes takes the Palmetto, sometimes Doral Boulevard — but cycling gets him to work just as fast.
Traffic moves so slowly in that area — about 20 mph — that his commute takes him the same amount of time on his bike as in his car. In the evening, the bike is faster.
The new bridge probably will shave about five minutes off his commute, when he takes 836.
The “game changer,” he said, will come with improvements to the interchange from 836 westbound to 826 southbound.