The shutdown of Northeast 12th Street has begun. And so have the headaches for thousands of drivers.
On Monday, the street will permanently close from Biscayne Boulevard to Northeast First Avenue. That follows last Monday’s shutdown of the ramp to westbound I-395 and I-95.
For the past week, drivers have had to continue west on 12th to get on the highway. Starting next week, the new routine changes even more: Commuters and downtown visitors will have to turn right on 13th Street and left on First Avenue to get on the highway.
First Avenue will be converted to a two-way street to help traffic flow. But before that, expect construction to close one of the two lanes on First while the road is prepped for the change.
So, why is all this happening?
Highway managers are closing 12th Street as part of a four-year redesign project in the heart of downtown that is remaking parts of Interstate 95, I-395 and State Road 836. The goal is to improve traffic flow, said the project’s spokesman.
The $802 million project will add a double-decker highway, park space underneath for pedestrians, as well as a “signature bridge” — a six-arch structure that looks like a giant spider — over Biscayne Boulevard.
Construction work on I-95, 836, and 395 will continue day and night until 2023.
The two partners on the project, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, say they will try to keep road closures to off-peak hours.
“We meet regularly to make sure we minimize impacts to the traveling public to the fullest extent possible,” said Oscar Gonzalez III, senior community outreach specialist for the project. He said that the elimination of a few traffic lights and signs should help keep cars moving.
The real test is when downtown Miami awakens from its summer break, and area venues such as the Arsht Center and AmericanAirlines Arena draw full crowds in the fall for Heat games and theater shows.
Gonzalez said that traffic conditions after the first shutdown on 12th last week have been pretty much normal, but Monday’s detours may challenge some drivers.
“People have been driving these routes for 20, 30 years,” he said. “It’s going to take one or two weeks to get accustomed to the new traffic pattern.”