On Thursday evening, Miami Downtown Neighbors Alliance (MiamiDNA) hosted a presentation by representatives for the Signature Bridge & I-395 / SR 836 / I-95 construction that will be impacting our community for the next five years.
The project is a partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) to improve traffic patterns on State Road 836, I-95 and I-395. Also included in the project is a “Signature Bridge” in Downtown Miami at the entrance to MacArthur Causeway, and “a contiguous [pedestrian] trail that includes community activity areas.” The project is budgeted at $802 million, reportedly fully funded, and expected to be finished in the fall of 2023.
While the presenter focused on the overall concepts – increased traffic mobility, commuter safety, pedestrian spaces & the iconic bridge – downtown Miami residents were far more concerned about quality of life disruptions during and after construction.
For example, “the existing I-395 eastbound off-ramps at NE 2 Avenue will be moved west to North Miami Avenue, and the westbound on-ramps at NE 1 Avenue will be shifted to the west of North Miami Avenue.” Although this change will improve pedestrian safety along NE 2 Avenue, there is concern about not only increased vehicle traffic, but increased vehicle speeds generated by the improved ramps. Several attendees asked what “traffic calming” methods were to be included, but no satisfactory answers provided.
Construction noise and vibration is another hot button issue for downtown residents. To date, the “Connecting Miami” project has only done some “test pilings” – no actual construction has started. These test pilings, however, have caused vibrations so severe that objects were falling from shelves in nearby Ten Museum. Project representatives have promised to look into it, and told the residents that construction will follow City of Miami noise ordinances “with some exceptions”.
The one part of the project I was most looking forward to also left us less than reassured. Project plans include approximately 10 blocks of linear park area beneath I-395, which will be raised to 63 feet. The spaces are to include a “Market Plaza” with food, crafts, and music; children’s playgrounds; an amphitheatre; walking trails and other features meant to connect our downtown community and improve walkability. Unfortunately, project representatives were unable to give any specifics about lighting, access, maintenance, security, etc. An audience member asked if they could point to any similar project we could look at, but representatives could not name one. (They didn’t even reference Miami’s own Underline currently under construction!) My take-away: it is clear (& not surprising) that FDOT and MDX are focused on the highways (more traffic!), while all talk of sustainability and improved quality of life for downtown Miami residents is nothing more than an afterthought.
For more information about the project, and for construction updates, visit Connecting Miami.