Dade Boulevard bike path could be ready by early 2015

06/19/2014 2:00 PM

06/19/2014 5:36 PM

After more than two years of intermittent work, Miami Beach has not completed a bike path paralleling the Collins Canal along Dade Boulevard.

A temporary asphalt path has been laid down, but many cyclists opt to use the street rather than share the temporary path with pedestrians.

Construction along the canal began in January 2012, but has been stalled several times, largely due to procurement issues, leaving the barren path as an eyesore.

Although the last word from city officials was that construction would be completed by April 2013. A city spokeswoman says the bike and pedestrian path should be complete by spring 2015.

The project was originally launched to increase the height of the existing sea wall to better withstand times of high water. Along with improvements to the sea wall, the city promised a wider, extended bike and pedestrian path with LED light fixtures.

However, a wrench was thrown into these plans in October 2012, when former Miami Beach procurement director Gus Lopez was arrested on 63 charges including racketeering, bid-tampering and illegal compensation. The bike path contract, with Harbour Construction, was one of the projects involved in that investigation, and was halted.

While work to the canal itself had been finished, the landscaping to the surrounding area was far from complete at the time.

The city tried to complete the project again in January 2013. Rick Saltrick, former chief capital projects engineer for the city, told residents at a public meeting that the city would resume construction, the Belle Isle Blog reported that January.

“We stopped work for a while because of procurement issues,” he said. “We decided to go ahead and let him finish. . . . We shouldn’t punish the rest of the city with an unfinished project.”

But now, more than a year later, it is apparent that construction was never completed and has made its way back into the procurement process. No progress has been made to the bike path since October.

Despite Saltrick’s declaration at the public meeting, a city spokeswoman said that the intention at the time was not to complete the project, but to respond to safety concerns with a temporary solution.

Bruce Mowry, the project manager for the past six months, said he was not sure why or when the project was halted, but did not mention safety issues. He believes it may have been due to disagreements about vegetation.

“There were a lot of the emotions considering the removal of the vegetation around the Collins Canal, and they were trying to regain what was left,” Mowry said.

Cyclists in Miami Beach see the prolonged construction as just another inconvenience to add to the many created by the numerous construction projects around the city.

“Bikers in general have been frustrated with the lack of safe bike paths in Miami Beach with all of the construction,” said Alex Ruiz, owner of the Miami Beach Bicycle Center. “This path could give bikers a place where they can ride, and hopefully motorists would respect their space.”

Before stopping again, the city did construct the temporary asphalt path intended to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

“I don’t know why discussion came about to place the temporary asphalt in that section,” Mowry said.

The path is far from the picture of safety. Some residents are frustrated by the discarded light pole that lies at the corner of Dade Boulevard and Alton Road, obstructing the temporary path.

“You’ll find this with signage and poles all over Miami Beach, and people are annoyed with all of this stuff being in the middle,” said Scott Diffenderfer, president of Belle Isle Residents Association.

New LED light fixtures are in place along the path, but they do not all work yet — although the city claims otherwise.

Several issues complicate the project. In an email, city spokeswoman Nanette Rodriguez released the following information about plans for the $440,000 project, which is being managed by the Public Works Department:

“The replacement of the temporary asphalt from Alton Road to Meridian Avenue is in procurement process. The landscaping from Alton Road to Convention Center Drive is also included in this process.

“The work on Dade Boulevard from Alton Road to 17th Street will be included in West Avenue Bridge project because the rebuilding of Dade Boulevard is intended to match the West Avenue Bridge approach. This project will not begin until the Alton Road project has been completed. We still do not have enough information on the Venetian Island bridge project to determine if it may have an impact on our schedule.”

Despite the obstacles, Mowry anticipates the project will move ahead soon. Once the procurement process ends, which he estimates will take about 60 days, construction should not take long, he said.

“It is ready to be advertised [for procurement],” said Mowry. “That should happen within the next couple of months. Completion depends on the schedule from the contractor. The amount of work is not huge, though.”

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