Luis Cedre stands in front of his house and watches a parade of cars zoom by.
“It’s bumper to bumper at rush hour and the stream is steady all day, every day,” he said.
Cedre does not live on a major artery. He lives on a little capillary called Southwest 24th Terrace in Silver Bluff, a previously serene Miami neighborhood where residents could walk their dogs and play with their kids without fearing for their lives.
No more. The volume and speed of cut-through traffic from clogged U.S. 1 and Coral Way has gotten so extreme and so dangerous that accidents are not uncommon and there’s a sense of dread that the next one will be fatal.
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“We even have big-rig 18-wheelers coming through here,” Cedre said as a delivery truck rumbled by, followed by a Lexus SUV going 40 mph and a noisy Dodge Challenger. “It’s horrifying.”
Two rollover crashes have occurred since April by cars that lost control whipping around a traffic circle. One slammed into and totaled a car parked on the street. Cedre’s two young children were 40 feet away from the other one. He has erected a fence and electric gate, which he hates, because he’s scared his kids will run out into oncoming traffic.
“A couple of my neighbor’s vehicles have been hit on the swale, and anyone who has parked on the street has lost a side mirror,” said Cedre, who lives about a block west of Southwest 17th Avenue on the north side of U.S. 1. Garbage trucks often veer onto the sidewalks.
Cars traveling in opposite directions on the narrow street have to make room for each other, but sometimes they won’t, and end up locked in an angry game of chicken.
“We know Miami drivers are uncivilized, and I’m afraid someone is going to get shot,” Cedre said. “I’m witnessing road rage right outside my front door.”
Beba Sardina Mann has a difficult time pulling out of her driveway to go to work in the morning. She lives on Southwest 23rd Street.
“No one will let me in because these are aggressive commuters in a hurry to get downtown,” said Sardina Mann, president of the Silver Bluff Homeowners Association. “They are honking and cursing at us because we are inconveniencing them. It’s nasty.”
As South Florida’s traffic congestion problems have thickened, Silver Bluff residents have been persistent in asking the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County — which controls the street — for relief. Traffic calming measures such as roundabouts and speed humps were installed but have proved to be ineffective. Drivers have ignored signs mandating No Left turns.
“Drivers use traffic circles as slingshots, speed tables don’t work, and it’s not possible for the police to constantly patrol every single street,” Cedre said. “Any obstacle you put in front of somebody only increases their aggression after they get through. They floor it.”
Sardina Mann described some of the speed bumps as “pimples” that need to be raised. Hundreds of thousands of county dollars have been spent on four traffic studies through the years to no avail.
The solution, Cedre, Sardina Mann and many of their neighbors say, is to close streets. Southwest 24th Terrace has become a thoroughfare.
“Southwest 24th Terrace has become the main drag and a straight shot from 17th Avenue to 27th Avenue or Douglas Road or even LeJeune Road if you want to avoid U.S. 1 gridlock,” Cedre said. “If you close these side streets at 17th Avenue, commuters would be forced to zig-zag and they don’t want that.
“We don’t need traffic mitigation. We need traffic elimination.”
But the county will no longer resort to street closures. Not off Southwest 17th Avenue, not off Southwest 22nd Avenue, not anywhere. It’s an antiquated strategy that only led to traffic havoc as cars were funneled to other streets, said County Commissioner Eileen Higgins. Nor will the county create one-way streets.
“These folks want their streets closed, but other folks are very opposed,” Higgins said. “You’re not sharing the traffic burden; you’re just moving it. You close this one and the residents on the next block get upset, and then the next one and the next one. Whose street do you close and where does it end? Do we all close ourselves off and stay home unemployed?
“Coral Gables isn’t doing it anymore, Miami isn’t doing it anymore, and Doral is actually opening some streets that it closed in the past.”
Not only are the fire and waste collection departments opposed to blocking off streets but so are many Silver Bluff and Shenandoah homeowners.
“In order for the county to approve a street closure you must prove there is no burden on surrounding streets and in this case and most cases, that’s impossible,” said Esteban Ferreiro, chief of staff for Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes.
Silver Bluff residents — and people who live in other South Florida neighborhoods invaded by cut-through traffic — have signed petitions, written emails, organized meetings and submitted ideas.
“I wish we could create a perfect world, but we can’t continue to dangle a miraculous solution for another six years and accomplish nothing,” Higgins said. “I think they’re mad because I told them the truth.”
Part of the truth is the root of the problem: There are too many cars — and car-dependent drivers — on Miami’s overburdened roads. They’ll continue to besiege neighborhoods where they don’t belong unless they use other transportation options.
“We are the source of our pain,” said Higgins, a regular mass-transit passenger. “We are the traffic.”
Frustration in Silver Bluff reached a peak Thursday night when residents held a rally and rush-hour protest on Southwest 24th Terrace to call attention to their plight and make drivers aware of how they are damaging the quality of life in the neighborhood, where property values have declined, said Chrissy Rabi.
“We are about 120 houses and somehow we are the bastard children of the district,” Sardina Mann said.
A turnout of about 60 sign-carrying neighbors slowed traffic and police decided to close the street — if only for a couple of hours.
Higgins is collaborating with Reyes to alleviate cut-through traffic, add traffic calming measures, make it easier to use Metrorail and redesign the Southwest 22nd Avenue corridor. The $2 million plan is to build bike lanes on both sides of the avenue, expand and beautify the median with trees and plants (and by narrowing the street, slow traffic), install roundabouts and improve the connection from Coral Way to U.S. 1 and the future Underline.
The city is installing new 25 mph speed limit signs on all residential streets by the end of February. Traffic enforcement will continue to be a priority, Ferreiro said.
“According to our police, that was the No. 1 area for tickets written — 1,400 last month,” Ferreiro said. “We will do whatever we can do to make it a pain for drivers to go through there and discourage them from using residential streets as shortcuts. WAZE has exacerbated the problem.”
Cedre — who is debating whether to stay and make renovations to his house or move away after 11 years of worsening traffic — and his neighbors are hoping to see a significant reduction in the number of drivers who use his street as an alternative to U.S. 1.
“The city and the county need to protect one of the strongest fibers of our community — the single-family neighborhood,” Sardina Mann said. “These homeowners are and will continue to be resolute in taking back their residential streets.”
Warned Cedre: “To the people of Miami Lakes and northwest Miami-Dade, good luck and God bless you with the American Dream mega mall. The traffic is going to destroy you so start protecting your streets now.”