Miami Beach

Traffic is main concern for Miami Beach residents worried about soccer stadium

A Major League Soccer stadium at PortMiami would create a traffic nightmare, Miami Beach residents said Wednesday at a town hall meeting.

The city held the meeting to discuss the consequences of retired English soccer player David Beckham’s proposal to build a 25,000-seat stadium on land owned by Miami-Dade County. About 150 people showed up.

“I am feeling like I am being forced out of my city, the city I was born in,” said South Beach resident Ron Brenesky. “We are a parking lot. The quality of our community is hurt.”

Miami Beach city commissioners passed a symbolic vote this month welcoming Major League Soccer to South Florida but opposing the proposed port location. The main issue, as far as Beach residents and officials are concerned: A stadium at the port would be accessed in part by the already-clogged MacArthur Causeway.

The city’s in-house traffic expert said Wednesday a preliminary analysis of the stadium proposal shows that the number of vehicles per hour on the causeway would increase from 2,700 to 5,100.

“So we are concerned,” traffic analyst Jose Gonzalez said.

Beckham’s group has yet to release its own traffic study, which it says is not complete. Still, ahead of the meeting Wednesday, the organization sent a five-page memo from its traffic consultant in an attempt to allay some of Miami Beach’s concerns.

John McWilliams of Kimley-Horn and Associates, a major traffic-engineering design firm, wrote to commissioners that a stadium should not create congestion on the causeway.

“Based on our analysis, we do not expect the operations of a Port of Miami professional soccer stadium to adversely impact traffic in or upon entering Miami Beach,” he wrote.

His reasoning: Traffic for soccer matches would be distributed between the port’s Dodge Island and downtown Miami. Of some 6,400 cars expected at each match, one-third would park at the port and the rest would park downtown in garages and lots now used by Miami Heat fans, according to McWilliams. Three-quarters of soccer fans parking at the port would use the soon-to-be-inaugurated Port Tunnel that connects to the MacArthur, he said.

The tunnel can handle that volume of cars, Kimley-Horn found, based on capacity estimates listed in the port’s master plan.

“It’s such a game-changer here,” McWilliams told the Miami Herald of the tunnel. “Nine hundred cars could fit in the Port Tunnel before one car backs up on the causeway. It’s pretty tremendous.”

Some Beach residents encouraged community leaders to wait until the tunnel is open before taking a stance based on traffic.

“If it could work in that location, I think it would be the best location,” said resident Peter Loria.

But, he lamented: “Many people here have made up their minds already.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine capped Wednesday’s town hall with a tongue-in-cheek proposal to build a stadium between active runways at Miami International Airport, noting that both the seaport and the airport are major economic drivers.

He handed out flyers that said: “This proposal is fictitious and clearly as ridiculous, impractical and illogical as putting the MLS stadium in PortMiami.”

Although Levine owns a media company that works exclusively with Royal Caribbean cruise line, a main opponent of the port location, the mayor insists his opposition is not business-related.

“Our issue, for us, is how it affects the residents of Miami Beach,” Levine said.