The flyover from the MacArthur Causeway that dumps thousands of vehicles onto Alton Road in South Beach will be closed starting Sunday — much to the surprise of upset residents and city commissioners.
The closure is projected to last for 30 days, until mid-August. If the project runs behind schedule, the contractor would be charged $5,000 a day for up to five days.
“You’re going to make the residents miserable,” Commissioner Deede Weithorn told FDOT officials at an emergency commission meeting on Monday.
The flyover work is part of a larger and already controversial Alton Road project by the Florida Department of Transportation. The state is reconfiguring the road and adding pump stations along Alton from Fifth Street to Michigan Avenue to improve drainage in the notoriously flood-prone neighborhood. Construction began in April and is scheduled to stretch through August 2015.
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower called Monday’s meeting to discuss the impact of shutting down a main access point to the island. She and many commissioners also took the opportunity to ream city and state officials about why the plan wasn’t better publicized.
“No one understands what’s happening, and we continue to have these problems with FDOT projects,” said Commissioner Jorge Exposito
Normally soft-spoken, he complained loudly that the city is treated as “secondary citizens” when it comes to dealing with FDOT.
The state’s original plans called for narrowing the Alton Road flyover for six months, with only 10 days of complete closures, and with construction occurring between midnight and 5 a.m.
But with school out of session and tourists no longer in town during the hot summer months, FDOT officials said they had a “unique opportunity” to get the job done quicker. Officials also said the previous plan would force contractors to do most of the construction at night, which could present noise issues for the surrounding neighborhood. They admitted on Monday, however, that even with the new plan, some construction would have to occur at night.
Officials also acknowleged that the closure would increase congestion in the area, but said they will make changes to the intersection of Alton and Fifth Street to help make traffic manageable. For example, a median will be taken out of the intersection to allow for a third lane of traffic.
Still, residents lined up — and took to Twitter — to vent frustration with state officials. Locals have protested the Alton Road plans since their inception, pushing for a reconfigured street that would slow down traffic and make their neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly.
“I’m thinking I need to go out and buy some good walking shoes,” tweeted Miami beach resident Jessica Goldstein. “I’ll be walking the 15+ miles across the causeway to work if it does what I think it will to traffic.”