Rankled residents of the Venetian Islands have long demanded a promise from the U.S. Coast Guard that the finicky eastern drawbridge will remain locked down during the upcoming construction on the western span of the causeway.
On Wednesday, they got what they wished for. The eastern drawbridge, which recently got stuck in the upright position twice on one Saturday, will stay down throughout the nine months it will take to completely reconstruct a dilapidated stretch of the westernmost bridge. That $10-million project will start June 1.
Gayle Love, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade public works, announced the lockdown in an email Wednesday.
“The Coast Guard’s ruling will temporarily authorize the full-time closure of the East Venetian Causeway Bridge to ensure that vehicular traffic will be able to access and depart from the Venetian Causeway while emergency repairs are completed on the west bridge,” Love wrote. “We are grateful to the U.S. Coast Guard for this decision, as it will alleviate concerns about access to and from the Venetian Islands during our construction project.”
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One can easily see the need for work on the western bridge, with a worn-down roadway patched with metal plates in several sections. That worn-out piece of the causeway will see a complete reconstruction during the nine-month project. Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists will not be able to cross the bay via the Venetian during that time.
Florida Department of Transportation officials are looking at rehabilitating or even replacing the other 11 bridges that connect the Venetian Islands.
At a public workshop in Miami Beach held Wednesday night, FDOT officials presented alternatives for rehabilitating or replacing 12 bridges along the causeway.
The aim was to get public input during a planning phase that transportation officials expect will take until the end of 2017.
Residents saw presentations for reinforcing existing bridges or completely replacing them. Replacement options included different styles of railings, different styles of bridges to replace the fixed bridges and the east drawbridge.
Detour options were also considered.
Some of the proposed work would put the causeway at risk of losing its historic designation, which concerned some residents.
“I don’t want to risk that,” said Terry Jonas, a resident of Di Lido Island. “The historic preservation is still important to me.”