The stubborn easternmost drawbridge of the Venetian Causeway, known for occasionally getting stuck and causing traffic backups, will close for up to 45 days for repairs this fall.
The drawbridge between Rivo Alto Island and Belle Isle will undergo mechanical repairs including new motors, brakes, switches and wiring. Its unpredictable behavior has caused island residents to worry about what would happen if emergency vehicles couldn’t cross.
The county will also repair the concrete deck of the bridge connecting Belle Isle to South Beach. During work on the easternmost bridge, it will be open to traffic but will have lane closures.
Miami-Dade officials estimate the work will cost about $2 million. A contractor is expected to be chosen by late summer, and construction should start around September. The drawbridge is expected to be finished by December 2016. Repairs to the other bridge are expected to be done by May.
Closure of the eastern drawbridge will again force commuters who use the Venetian to travel between the mainland and Miami Beach to use an alternate route, like the MacArthur or Julia Tuttle causeways.
The entire Venetian Causeway is in bad shape. The Florida Department of Transportation is in the middle of a three-year, $2.8 million study to figure out how to deal with problems that span the whole causeway. That study isn’t expected to be done until 2017.
But county officials say they need to expedite this work.
“The rehabilitation work, although not a declared emergency, is to permit operation of the [drawbridge] and also to address the deck deterioration of the other bridge,” said Ileen Delgado, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade’s transportation and public works department.
Last year, after Venetian residents asked for a contingency plan from emergency responders during the nine-month reconstruction of the westernmost bridge, Beach police held an exercise to show how they would use rescue boats and/or a helicopter to reach residents if the causeway wasn’t open.