The rush hour commute across the Venetian Causeway could soon become less frustrating.
On Wednesday, Miami Beach took the first step toward keeping the Venetian Causeway east drawbridge from opening for boats during rush hour. City commissioners passed a resolution asking the U.S. Coast Guard to modify the bridge’s operating schedule to keep it closed weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 7 p.m. The resolution also asks the Coast Guard to open the bridge every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays if a boat is waiting, rather than every half hour.
An average of 13,000 cars a day drive across the Venetian Causeway, which is one of the main arteries connecting Miami Beach to Miami. It’s made up of 12 bridges linking a string of six islands and two of those bridges — the east drawbridge located within Miami Beach and the west drawbridge located within the city of Miami — currently open every half hour between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays when boats are waiting to pass.
Opening and closing the bridges takes six to eight minutes, according to a memo from City Manager Jimmy Morales, and the frequent bridge movements can snarl traffic along the Venetian and on nearby streets. This problem has recently been exacerbated by construction on the MacArthur Causeway and crowded events in Miami Beach, including spring break, bringing more traffic than usual over the Venetian.
The resolution alone won’t be enough to keep the Venetian Causeway locked down during rush hour, however. The Miami City Commission would need to adopt a similar resolution for the west drawbridge. Then the Coast Guard will evaluate the requests, ask for public comment, and, if approved, send the modified operating schedule to Miami-Dade County, which has jurisdiction over the Venetian Causeway. The process is expected to take roughly one year.
This isn’t the first time Miami Beach has petitioned to lock down a bridge during peak traffic periods. In 2015, Commissioner Micky Steinberg — who sponsored the Venetian Causeway resolution with Commissioners Mark Samuelian and Michael Góngora — started the process of changing the operating schedule for the 63rd Street Bridge that spans Indian Creek. The effort took more than a year, but the bridge now stays closed during rush hour.
Miami Herald staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report