The controversial idea of building a tunnel beneath the Miami River in downtown Miami to ease chronic traffic congestion on Brickell Avenue emerged again this week during a meeting of local leaders who plan county transportation projects.
The tunnel concept, proposed and rejected a number of times in the recent past, came up Tuesday as part of a resolution before Miami-Dade’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which consists of the 13 county commissioners as well as representatives of several municipalities and the school board.
The resolution, which was adopted, marks a new effort to mitigate the frequent traffic jams on Brickell Avenue whenever the drawbridge over the Miami River opens for ships entering or leaving the river. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people who drive through the area or who work or live in the Brickell business district for years have expressed frustration about the traffic backups.
The resolution was submitted by MPO vice chairman Francis Suárez, a City of Miami commissioner. It instructs the MPO executive director to explore the possibility of a study to examine the feasibility of a tunnel under the Miami River at or near Brickell Avenue.
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This does not mean the tunnel will be built anytime soon. It means that the issue may be studied, something that was previously done at least once or twice. The idea has never gone forward partly because Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials have said in the past that such a project would be extremely expensive and it would require taking a considerable amount of property in the area where the drawbridge operates.
“I proposed a tunnel and it was rejected,” recalled Maurice Ferre, an MPO member and former mayor of Miami. Ferre cautioned fellow MPO members about requesting studies that cost between $100,000 and $200,000 each, even if the issue has been studied previously.
Suárez explained that his request would have “no fiscal impact” on the MPO because it was simply a request to explore the possibility of a study.
During the same meeting, County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa offered transport resolutions that also were approved.
One seeks to explore the possibility of a study on reversible lanes on certain roadways to mitigate traffic congestion. The other asks FDOT to explore the possibility of dedicated lanes for emergency vehicles, passenger and school buses along stretches of Southwest Eighth Street.
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