For nearly three decades, the Northwest 154th Street overpass, which extends over I-75, has remained unused.
But it may not stay that way for long.
During a Feb. 3 meeting, Miami Lakes Councilman Nelson Rodriguez proposed that the overpass be turned into a passive park, complete with features including bike lanes, walking paths and greenery.
The idea was an immediate hit, as the town council unanimously approved a motion asking staff members to look into repurposing the property.
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“The property is owned by the [Florida] Department of Transportation and the state of Florida,” Rodriguez said in an interview after the meeting, adding that the town has obtained property from FDOT in the past.
The two-lane bridge, which extends over I-75, was built by FDOT in 1986 to provide east/west connectivity over the interstate, according to an email from Ivette Ruiz-Paz, media outreach specialist with FDOT.
However, the bridge has never been used.
In 2007, Miami Lakes and Hialeah entered into an agreement stating that both municipalities will oppose any interchange connecting Northwest 154 Street to I-75.
“I’m sitting there going, ‘OK, we’re never going to open it to vehicular traffic, so what can we do to make it useful for us,’” Rodriguez said after the meeting.
He did some research and was inspired by the High Line, a public park that was built on an elevated freight rail line in Manhattan’s West Side. He also learned about a similar park in Paris and felt the idea would be perfect for Miami Lakes.
“The whole point of it is how can we utilized that piece of property effectively?” Rodriguez said after the meeting.
The council was on board with the idea and showed their support from the dais.
“I saw it, [and] I was like, ‘This is genius, why didn’t I think of this?’ You know, just make it a park,” said Councilman Tony Lama. “So you’re going to have my support on this item.”
Others echoed those words of support.
“Councilman Rodriguez, congratulations,” Councilman Ceasar Mestre said. “Same thing, why didn’t I think of it first?”
“I feel [as if] I just gave birth,” Rodriguez joked at the meeting, after getting a string of praise from his fellow council members.
During the meeting, Mestre asked Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, who was in the audience, if Hialeah would support Miami Lakes in this venture.
“It is an incredible idea and something that we support 100 percent,” said Hernandez, adding that Hialeah has 30 acres of land near the overpass that the city intends to turn into a passive park.
On Tuesday night, the Hialeah council unanimously approved a resolution supporting Miami Lakes in its efforts to convert the overpass into a park.
“Since we are neighboring cities with a great working relationship, I felt that this would be a project that residents of both cities would truly enjoy, all while improving their quality of life,” Hernandez said Wednesday via email. “The City of Hialeah has planned to build a park in the annexation area and with this initiative both parks will eventually connect to one another.”