The mind-melting traffic jams caused by MacArthur Causeway construction that turned you into Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” have eased, but beware, because the work won’t be finished anytime soon.
One of two closed westbound travel lanes reopened Thursday on the East Bridge between Alton Road and Terminal Island, providing relief to drivers who had been backed up for 30 to 60 minutes on the causeway and on all roads funneling into the causeway. Then there was the domino effect that paralyzed a huge swath of Miami Beach as drivers scrambled to take alternate routes and escape to the Venetian or Julia Tuttle causeways only to find those roads jammed, too.
With two of three lanes now open, delays have been reduced. The Florida Department of Transportation and its contractor accelerated the repair schedule to spare aggrieved motorists and minimize congestion in time for tourist season. One westbound lane will remain closed through the end of 2018. FDOT warns that “the schedule may change due to bad weather or other unforeseen conditions.”
Take a deep breath or buy a jet pack because the entire two-year $12.9 million rehabilitation project is not slated for completion until May 2020.
Saltwater sprayed on the underside of the bridge by Jet Skis and other personal watercraft has corroded the causeway named after Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It opened in 1920. Rusted beams and columns have to be fixed and the deck has to be replaced. When the westbound side is finished, crews will shift work to the eastbound side.
“At least one eastbound and one westbound lane will remain open at all times,” FDOT said.
Although the lane closures may only last nine months, “It’s going to be a lot of pain,” FDOT engineer John Bolton told Miami Beach commissioners at the start.
Last month bottlenecks were so extensive that Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber called the situation “disastrous” and sent an email to residents saying, “The closure has been extremely disruptive and for many of our residents — especially those in South Beach — it has been a real hardship.”
He deployed additional off-duty police officers — paid for by FDOT — to direct traffic and man intersections along Fifth Street and Alton Road, where they continue to be posted. Signs warn drivers to “expect delays,” “avoid the area” and “use alternate routes.” Tolls were suspended on the Venetian but have been reinstated.
Drivers should stay away during rush hours and commuters should try to adjust their work schedule to avoid peak rush hour times. FDOT encourages drivers to call 511 before they travel or log on to www.fl511.com to get real-time traffic and lane closure information. Or text MBTraffic to 888777 for updates.