Miami Beach

July 10, 2014

Venetian Islands residents worried about getting stuck

With repairs scheduled for the Venetian Causeway, some residents of the island chain are calling for a drawbridge lock-down in the name of safety.

Imagine this: You live on an island, and the only way on or off is a pair of drawbridges — one to the east and one to the west. The western bridge is demolished. Then the eastern bridge gets stuck.

And you need to get to work. Or worse: You need an ambulance.

That’s the kind of nightmare scenario Venetian Islands residents are hoping to avoid.

With the westernmost portion of the Venetian Causeway slated for demolition, some residents who live on the island chain want a complete lock-down of the eastern drawbridge while construction is underway.

So far, Miami-Dade County, which owns the causeway, has only been able to negotiate a reduced opening schedule for the eastern drawbridge.

There is a basis for residents’ worry: resident Michael Fryd pointed to when the eastern drawbridge got stuck in the upright position for three hours on July 2.

“Right now, when that happens, it is an inconvenience because I live on the causeway and when I’m coming home from work and that bridge is stuck, I have to detour,” said Fryd, a member of Venetian Islands Homeowners Association. “But it’s not life-threatening.”

At the time, it didn’t pose much of a safety concern because residents could enter or leave the island from the western portion of the causeway.

But the western side, which connects to mainland Miami, will be shut down to people and vehicles so the decrepit bridge can be replaced. Miami-Dade County Engineer Antonio Cotarelo hopes construction — and therefore the bridge closure — will start in November. Complete closure is expected to last nine months.

“During construction of the west bridge, if the east bridge gets stuck … if there’s a fire, a fire truck can’t get there. If somebody needs an ambulance, an ambulance can’t get there,” Fryd warned.

It’s up to the U.S. Coast Guard whether to lock down the bridge, or reduce the number of times it opens every day. The county and the Coast Guard have been in negotiations about how to address resident concerns.

So far, the Coast Guard has agreed to a limited schedule, Cotarelo said. Currently, the bridge opens every half hour. The average time the bridge is up is five minutes.

Under the proposed limited schedule, the drawbridge would open once an hour. During rush hour, the bridge would open only every two hours.

“That’s what we’ve, so far, tentatively accomplished. This is not official at all yet,” Cotarelo said.

Though Cotarelo called it a “lesser possibility,” he said the county hasn’t given up on a complete closure, saying residents’ points are being taken into consideration.

“We’re listening to their concerns. We are aware of their concerns, and we are doing our best in trying to address everyone’s concern,” Cotarelo said.

The Coast Guard, through Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios, would only say: “There has been no decision to close the bridge. They’re currently in discussions now between Sector Miami and Miami-Dade County.”

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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