Building a bridge that would connect two ends of Southwest 87th Avenue will only bring more of a traffic nightmare in an already bottlenecked area.
That was the verdict of Miami-Dade County’s Transportation Planning Organization, which voted unanimously Thursday to kill a bridge that would have extended Galloway Road from 164th Street to 163rd Terrace, crossing over the Cutler Drain canal in Palmetto Bay. Because the stretch of the canal, which runs east to west, blocks drivers going north-south, drivers are forced to take circuitous routes on residential streets to get to the other side.
Some government officials called the project a “multimillion-dollar boondoggle” while others dubbed it “the bridge to nowhere.”
The decision to scrap the $1.9 million bridge — one of 12 road improvement projects slated for 2018 — came despite a 2014 county study that showed traffic would be reduced anywhere from 10 to 40 percent, as well as shrink morning and afternoon peak times by as much as an hour and a half.
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But those benefits are only temporary and funds should go toward other solutions like mass-transit improvements, said County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who represents that district and voted against the project.
“In the end, the project will destroy more neighborhoods and ultimately just spread the problem to even more neighborhoods than those currently suffering from relentless cut-through traffic,” she said. “The [Department of Transportation] is trying to fix the symptom and not the disease of too many people driving alone in their cars.”
Cava said traffic apps like Google Maps and Waze have contributed to the problem by redirecting traffic through residential neighborhoods.
For Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, however, the bridge would have aided thousands of Cutler Bay’s 45,000 residents in getting from one side of South Dade to the other, without having to brave gridlocked alternatives like Florida’s Turnpike and U.S. Hwy. 1.
Michelle Craven is one of those 45,000.
“We do not have to choose between mass transit and a complete traffic grid. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to not use county roads,” Craven said. “We need this bridge to drive our kids to school, to go to grandma’s house, to drive whenever I gosh-darn feel like it because it’s really none of your gosh-darn business.”
All the members on the board said they would echo Cava’s vote because she “knows that district better than anyone else.”
“I will defer to the commissioner of the district in this case — but with a warning: We are going to deal with more of these items if we don’t fix our SMART plan,” said County Commissioner Esteban L. Bovo Jr. “Today it’s Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. Tomorrow it will be Coral Gables, and then it will be Doral.”