Nobody crashed in Monday’s first hours of the new “wrong way” interchange as Northwest 27th Avenue passes underneath State Road 836. But that’s because Miami cops guided confused drivers in the manner of a first-grade teacher keeping wayward students in line on the first day of school.
And the officers willl be there all week. The next one, too, 24/7, as drivers adjust to the new traffic pattern of the Diverging Diamond Interchange that made its debut just before Monday morning’s rush hour.
As northbound and southbound traffic approaches 836, the Dolphin Expressway, all three lanes swerve to the left so that drivers cross under the Dolphin on the left side of the street. Once traffic passes under the Dolphin, the lanes swerve back to the right.
The main change is for northbound drivers getting on westbound 836.
Instead of staying in the right lane, they have to get in the left lane and enter that way. On Monday morning, several drivers caught in the right lane as the swerve began started to fade uncertainly to the right, only to be waved back left by alert traffic cops.
Traffic lights eventually will choreograph all of this. But, some weren’t functioning properly on the first day, so police handled things.
“It’s a new traffic pattern in a city where the drivers are creatures of habit,” said Miami-Dade Expressway Authority director of engineering Juan Toledo. “It’s something new to learn. The police will be out here for two weeks to give people time to get used to it. Once they’re used to it, it’ll be habit and part of their daily commute.”
This does require drivers not only know where to stop, but actually stop there. Otherwise, traffic looks like fingers folded on each other.
Drivers typically overshot their stopping points coming out from under the overpass Monday morning. And, Miami drivers aren’t known for their we’re-all-in-this-together spirit with normal intersections, as they showed on Unity Boulevard (Northwest 27th Avenue) and 11th Street Monday morning. Northbound traffic and traffic turning north from eastbound Northwest 11th Street repeatedly blocked the traffic box into the next light.
That said, the addition of a green right turn arrow flatly telling westbound 11th Street traffic it’s OK to turn right as northbound Northwest 27th Avenue traffic turns left will help flow. Veterans of that intersection know drivers are often fuzzy about the right-on-red rules.
“I think we’re happy,” Toledo said around 8 a.m. “We’re not hitting anybody.”