Miami-Dade County

Traffic on Dolphin and Palmetto expressways runs smoothly after shift — but some confused drivers missed exits

Commuters scramble to exit on Northwest 107th Avenue off SR-836 on the first weekday of the new traffic shift on the expressway Monday, March 23, 2015.
Commuters scramble to exit on Northwest 107th Avenue off SR-836 on the first weekday of the new traffic shift on the expressway Monday, March 23, 2015. EL NUEVO HERALD

Little evidence of chaos and congestion developed on westbound State Road 836 Monday, the first day of the workweek commute, but a new traffic lane shift did cause confusion among many drivers who ended up going where they didn’t want to go.

Vehicles merged smoothly onto the new traffic lanes, which begin around Northwest 72nd Avenue. At that point, the exit ramps for 836 and State Road 826 separate and on Sunday morning, they shifted. Now, a driver must take the two left lanes to stay on 836 westbound, and take the right lanes for 826, West Flagler Street and the Northwest 87th Avenue/12th Street exit.

Some drivers who thought they could stay on 836 and exit at 87th Avenue were confused because they now have to stay to the right as if they were going to 826. And many drivers did not realize they had made a mistake until after the shift, resulting in overloaded exit ramps as they tried to go around.

The 836 exit ramp to northbound Northwest 107th Avenue was more congested than usual, largely because of drivers who had missed the shift or their exit. Many of the drivers on the 107th exit ramp in reality wanted to go to 826 or to 87th Avenue.

“Traffic through the area is moving, is flowing, but we did notice that there’s some people missing their exits and it will take a few days for people to get accustomed to the change,” said Oscar González, a spokesman for the 836-826 interchange reconstruction project. “We can see that some ramps have a little more traffic than normal.”

González said the Florida Department of Transportation was coordinating with Miami-Dade County officials in charge of the signals division to extend the timing of a traffic light at the 107th Avenue exit ramp in order to mitigate congestion.

The shift is the latest major milestone in the $560 million project to overhaul the massive interchange linking 836 with 826, partly funded by federal stimulus money. The construction project, which began in 2009, is expected to be finished in the first three months of 2016.

Transportation officials said they chose to implement the shift at this time because traffic is lighter in part due to spring break in Miami-Dade County Schools this week. With kids at home, many parents are staying home as well.

“Knowing it was spring break we really pushed hard to make it this weekend,” González said.

While there were delays at exit ramps, the generally smooth transition on the roadway was helped by signs along the highway.

“All the signage has been changed to reflect the new driving pattern and we got supplementary electronic signage board over the highway,” González said.

Still, the shift may take some getting used to.

“We want to stress to the drivers to please continue to watch out for the signs and have patience when driving through the area,” González said.

González warned that as the project enters its final phase, drivers should expect more traffic pattern changes on both 826 and 836 as new roadways, ramps and bridges open.