An enthusiastic crowd of about 100 Brickell residents gathered Monday to air concerns and ask questions about a plan by Miami to take control of a signature roadway running through the heart of the city’s financial center.
Residents asked if their taxes would increase, what the plan was for the corridor, and whose job it would be to coordinate traffic signals.
They didn’t get a lot of answers.
Those will come in the next few weeks as the Florida Department of Transportation mulls over whether to hand over the operations and maintenance of Brickell Avenue to the city of Miami.
Brickell Avenue is a roughly two-mile stretch of tree-lined road that connects the Rickenbacker Causeway to downtown Miami, and is home to high-end residences and one of the biggest banking centers in the Southeast U.S.
“We're here to serve you, and it's certainly not a done deal,” FDOT District Secretary Gus Pego told the crowd.
FDOT invited residents as part of the process of transferring the roadway to the city. The state transportation agency will listen to more concerns over the next 10 days, then offer a recommendation to FDOT's state secretary, Ananth Prasad.
Then, either Pego or Prasad could go ahead and cement the deal with Miami City Manager Johnny Martinez.
The city has expressed interest in taking control of the corridor for years, arguing that as the Brickell area has grown, the 35-mile-per-hour speed limit is too high and is outdated.
Controlling the roadway also would make it easier to complete projects, like a long-planned culling of hundreds of trees and bushes in the road's median that became a hot topic, and got stalled after residents and a Miami-Dade County commissioner complained that they were unaware of the plan.
Miami intends to offer FDOT a swap of some nearby roads in order to make the move as cost neutral as possible, though Pego said “it would have to make sense to us” before any transfer is accepted.
Monday's gathering at the First Presbyterian Church of Miami began with a 30-minute mingling session between residents, FDOT representatives, and city leaders. An FDOT spokeswoman then explained the plan. Most in attendance were clearly in favor of the proposed transfer.
“The state has ignored us,” said Brickell resident William Fitch, alluding to requests to lower the speed limit.
Barbara Deppman said she is concerned about cracked sidewalks when she runs along the roadway.
Myriam Marino said she couldn’t make up her mind because too many questions remained unanswered.
One resident questioned how Brickell — now considered a stretch of U.S. 1 — could be “undesignated.”
The answer is a bit confusing.
Neil Lyn, FDOT district assistant administrator, explained a U.S. route is not permitted on a non-state roadway, and that U.S. 1 must remain contiguous.
So for the plan to go through, FDOT would have to designate the most southern stretch of Interstate 95, running from U.S. 1 to the Biscayne Boulevard exit at the Knight Center, as U.S. 1.
To make it contiguous, the exit ramp that runs from I-95 to Biscayne Boulevard also would become U.S. 1.
Brickell Avenue could then become a city road.
Not everyone was enthused with the plan.
“If you turn everything over to the city, it's just going to be more of the same,” said one, long-time Brickell resident.