Zulaika Tokhi needed to get to Miami International Airport for work Monday morning, but she hit a snag as she tried to go through the toll plaza on the Venetian Causeway.
“Now I have to go back down and go all the way through South Beach,” said Tokhi, who had just made a U-turn before the toll plaza on Biscayne Island, where “Road Closed” signs blocked vehicles from passing. “So yes, I’ve been inconvenienced.”
Tokhi was one of several commuters rerouted on the first day that 730 feet of the Venetian Causeway was closed — between the westernmost Biscayne Island, through the toll plaza and onto the Miami mainland. The closure is part of a nine-month, $12.4-million replacement of the weakened, patched bridge on the western side of the causeway. The bridge was closed to all traffic early Monday and will continue to be closed during the project.
Barricades in front of the toll booth and at the Miami entrance kept cars off the bridge. Some drivers who had either forgotten about the closure or weren’t aware were frustrated as they realized they were going to be late for work.
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Outside the Venetian, the condo tower just north of the causeway on the Miami side, Gary Goldstein walked his golden doodle Cobi to a nearby park instead of the usual stroll across the Venetian around 7 a.m.
The contractor, GLF Construction, has a temporary noise waiver from the city of Miami to work around the clock in order to expedite the disruptive project. The City Commission is expected to consider extending that waiver at a June 11 public hearing.
Goldstein said he wouldn't mind construction work outside his building late at night as long as the work gets done faster.
“I'd be all right with that,’’ he said.
On the Venetian Islands, the stretch of causeway leading up to the toll booth was eerily quiet Monday morning. Several cars did have to turn around and take either the MacArthur or Julia Tuttle causeways during rush hour, but the rest of the morning saw little traffic.
Nelson Alvaranga, a resident of the Venetian Islands, said he didn’t mind the closure because the roads will be less busy while he walks his chocolate Labrador Puchini and his German Shepherd Anubi.
“It doesn’t bother me much,” he said. “I don’t really need to cross the bay often.”
Cyclists have long dreaded the closure of the causeway because it is safer to ride than the MacArthur or Julia Tuttle. County officials say they are working with the Florida Department of Transportation to make the other causeways more welcoming for cyclists.
After the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to lock down the east drawbridge for the duration of the construction, one roadway will always be available to the Venetian Islands from Miami Beach.
Amid the afternoon rush hour Monday, an accident involving a car and a scooter led to a bottleneck at that east entrance at the causeway and Purdy Avenue. Officials said a scooter heading west on the east drawbridge tried to pass traffic and hit an SUV. The injured driver of the scooter suffered serious injuries and was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in stable condition.
After the accident, traffic was shut down in both directions for about 25 minutes as investigators were on scene. Then one lane was opened for 90 minutes before normal traffic resumed.