Last night, a team of ten FDOT traffic engineers, public information officers and project managers came to Simpson Park to tell local residents what to expect from their 400-day long Brickell Avenue resurfacing project.

Also last night, in the very same place, some 50+ people who live, work, own property as well as condos, who play or have a vested interest in the heart of Miami being ‘world class’ rather than a ‘highway standard’, came to ask questions, plead for changes and speak out publicly/loudly demanding that “the bullshit has got to stop with FDOT!”

One PIO (Public Information Officer) asked her colleague in front of me afterward where all these walking and biking people were when they started the project. The two looked at me blankly – I said, they were here, on Brickell; not reading your notices in the Herald or even aware that their local street was considered an FDOT highway. We had a positive moment.

Here are some summary points from the meeting:

1) We met Andres Beriartu, one of the project administrators and clearly someone who wants to be professional and positive going into this project. If you have questions specific to the construction (sidewalk detours, dust, noise, closures, etc), you can email him here. There will be lots of work, but they will keep one lane open at all times and will confine construction to non-rush hour times.

2) No Street Harassment from FDOT: Andres promised to make professionalism a top priority for everyone working on the ground. Women present, myself included, were impressed. We’ll post more in January.

3) Share the Road Signs: We will get ‘Share the Road Signs’ by February 2012 along Brickell. We may get some during construction. What about Ride Right/Drive Right Signs? They promised to consider them and, as Director of the South Florida Bike Coalition, I will be strongly urging them to demonstrate an honest concern for bicyclists’ safety throughout the project. We want better signage! And Sharrows! And… !!!

4) Shared Use Lane Markings/ Sharrows: Not gonna happen. BUT, they are ‘considering’ reducing the speed limit on Brickell, which would make it ‘standard-compliant.’ In other words, we can still be optimistic but only if the post speed limit is reduced.

5) Reducing the Speed Limit Under Consideration: Transit Miami and the Bike Coalition have partnered with everyone from the Brickell Area Association to the Mayor to request a safe, state-standard speed limit for this densest of residential corridors. Despite to their dismissive emails and comments to me personally, the Traffic Operations division hired some ‘spotters’ to collect data last weekend on how many people and bikes were present and how fast a random selection of cars were going. Mr. Ramon Sierra told us that if you admit to finding yourself speeding anywhere at anytime, your opinion is irrelevant – but he also said that he is going to try and review this data before Christmas, given it’s his only priority, but made no promises. However, when he is done reviewing the data… we get to see it, so we are looking forward to that.

And, wait for it: During construction, the Posted Speed Limit will be 25 MPH. Couldn’t it just stay that way after the project, a few people asked. ‘If data from last weekend supports it.’

6) Lighting on Brickell is not going to be what so many local property owners have been asking for for the last 5-7 years. Sorry. FDOT has decided on lights that are consistent with Brickell ten years ago, not ten years from now.

 

The New MiamiDDA designed and funded Brickell Avenue crosswalks

7) Crosswalks: Good News! FDOT has graciously given the Miami DDA and the City of Miami the permission to pay for the design and installation of ‘several’ new crosswalks. These crosswalks will be 10 feet wide, ‘decorative’ and flat with the concrete or asphalt pavement. FDOT reps said that they would have liked to let the DDA pay for more, but crosswalks on all sides can impede left turns. Still, this is a real, tangible benefit for people who walk, bike and drive because they will have the added effect of slowing traffic.

8 ) What’s a raised crosswalk? The Traffic Operations professional working on this project did not know what a raised crosswalk was. He told us, “I saw one once. You don’t want them; they’re loud.” This blew away a lot of people in the room, since raised crosswalks are commonly used in traffic calming all over the United States, and in cities as far away as Miami Shores (those urban pioneers!). Sierra replied that he would be concerned for bicyclists. Seriously. Upon our clarifying that cyclists want them, his fellow engineers stepped up to show their own lack of familiarity with this facility type by suggesting the disabled don’t like ramps.

At this point, I started to feel for these FDOT employees, surrounded by vocal, angry, informed customers. Some people got really, really angry. Others attacked these people’s employer or their chosen profession with, well, some pretty effective verbal ammunition. It seems that as long as Brickell Avenue is known as Highway US-1, there will always be a conflict between those who want a safe, clean street and those who feel compelled to the single rote reply: “We can’t, that’s not up to standard.” Then again – how can we forgive those in power who do bad things, all the way just explaining, ‘But that’s my job.’ No, no, it’s not. (Read reader Ned’s recount of the meeting here)

In the end, individual FDOT employees softened. I can’t understand why they are so adverse to thinking outside their box, of reaching out to their colleagues within the US for the data they need to support better street design. This is something we do at TransitMiami.com, something I did regularly when I worked for the City of Miami and an almost daily party of my job with the Bike Coalition. Still, their mission statement reminds us that You are the Boss of FDOT. Write to them, call them and demand that they stay true to their mission to  “provide a safe transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods, enhances economic prosperity and preserves the quality of our environment and communities.” Then write to them and call them again. FDOT is a behemoth, but the people within the system are people, too. And sometimes, even they have to cross the street.

  • For additional questions or if you have comments you would like on the record (support better signs than Share the Road and an effective speed limit!), please contact Heather Leslie at 305.499.2391 or Heather.Leslie@dot.state.fl.us.

Tagged with:
 

10 Responses to FDOT Presents… Their Opinion on Brickell

  1. Kevin says:

    The employees at FDOT are clearly inept and are essentially just robots. They don’t know how to think, they lost that ability the day they began work at FDOT. Could they be any less innovative? What a shame, truly a huge shame. FDOT and your crew, you are a HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT!

       0 likes

  2. Eli says:

    I was at the meeting last night, and I was very encouraged that FDOT is taking a second look at the speed limit and pedestrian data on Brickell. Let’s remember that FDOT, above all else, is a methodical, slow-moving beaurocratic entity that is not quick to respond to change. They cannot institute project changes without taking more “data” to support the proposed changes. I’m hopeful that the data will support that which is abundantly obvious to those of us that live/work/play on Brickell — Brickell needs a lower speed limit and/or “traffic calming” devices, along with more pedestrian crosswalks. Consider it a minor victory that FDOT is at least reconsidering their plans, with the New Year bringing a major victory for the bike/ped community when the data supports our position.

    As an aside, let’s all try to refrain from the ad hominem attacks on the FDOT personnel. You can’t reason or bargain through sarcasm, insult, and/or condescension. I fear that a number of very valid, important concerns were largely ignored last night by the FDOT personnel because of the way in which they were presented. Whether we agree with their work product or not, the FDOT engineers clearly take pride in their work. Telling someone they’re incompetent and inept is destructive, not constructive criticism. These guys are just going to tune you out when you take that approach — even if it is deserved.

       0 likes

  3. JM Palacios says:

    The FDOT Plans Preparation Manual section 8.3.3 “Crosswalks” states:

    Crosswalks occur at all intersections, whether or not they are marked and on any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface. Reasonable accommodation should be made to make crossings both convenient and safe, and minimize the pedestrian’s exposure in the roadway. Crosswalks are defined in Florida Statutes 316.003(6).

    There are a number of treatments that may be used to help pedestrians safely across the street, whether crossing at an intersection or midblock. A marked crosswalk is one of these tools. Marking of crosswalks helps drivers better identify the intersection, guides the pedestrian to the best crossing location and provides guidance for people with low vision.

    In short, put marked crosswalks on all four sides of the intersection in order to make all those crossings convenient and safe. Closing the crosswalk with “no crossing” signs is not a good solution in an urban area.

       0 likes

  4. Mike Lydon says:

    The biggest irony, as you point out Kathryn, is that the street will be safer at 1 lane, and 25mph during construction, than after the project is completed.

    It’s a national embarrassment for Florida to continue on with a DOT that operates in this manner. Keep fighting and go straight to Tallahassee with your plea. Let them know that if things don’t change, Florida will only remain as the most dangerous place for people driving, walking, biking, and taking transit.

       0 likes

  5. Felipe Azenha says:

    Eli,

    I agree that personal attacks are not necessary on FDOT personnel. I spoke to several FDOT personnel after the meeting and they are very nice people. For the most part, they were willing to listen to my suggestions.

    That being said, Transit Miami and the South Florida Bike Coalition have been very patient with FDOT. We have asked FDOT to do the right thing for the past 4 months, but they refuse to acknowledge the obvious. The Brickell Homeowners Association and the Brickell Area Association have been begging FDOT to make overdue safety upgrades for years.

    Many of us have reached our boiling point, including myself, and rightfully so. FDOT is playing with people’s lives on Brickell. We have been polite to FDOT and have asked them kindly to do the right thing, yet they refuse to budge.

    Quite frankly, we should all be insulted by FDOT’s cavalier attitude. They refuse to acknowledge there is a problem. This will be a slap in the face of ALL Floridians if FDOT does make Brickell safer. We will continue to lead the nation in bike/ped deaths if the FDOT modus operandi remains.

    Unfortunately, they are the one’s being condescending; they should not ignore the will of the residents and businesses on Brickell. Common sense dictates that we need a lower speed limit, more crosswalks and traffic calming. Enough is enough. The buck stops here.

       0 likes

  6. [...] Meeting hosted by FDOT last night. I wrote about its implication for bicyclists and everyone else on TransitMiami.com; read the post [...]

       0 likes

  7. Mike Moskos says:

    I’ve said this elsewhere on this site, but the real problem is the layer upon layer of government trying to get a bigger government entity with bigger pockets to pay for a what should be a local-only concern. Given how built up Florida is, I’m not really sure why we have a need for the feds, the state, or the county to get involved in what should be a city-only concern (other than getting people from say Tallahassee to pay for a Brickell repaving so we can pay for paving projects elsewhere). Given its density, meaning low-costs to provide city service and multiples of property tax payers, Brickell (& places like Calle Oche, Overtown, Liberty City, etc.) is subsidizing other parts of the county and the state heavily.

    We need to find a taxing mechanism to further improve areas like Brickell so that more people will want to move to high density areas, thus resulting in lowering the costs of maintaining infrastructure. The people of Brickell should be deciding what their city streets will be like.

       0 likes

  8. Ned says:

    I’m writing from the year 2016, and I just thought you’d like to know that FDOT was right all along. I guess it was about 5 years ago that they unveiled their revised plan for Brickell Avenue after approving several key changes to the final design prompted by an unusual meeting to address concerns of area residents. The revised plan featured five additional signs not called for in the original design and were added 8 months after the, new at the time, data had been analyzed.

    Alas, here in 2016, it is clear that the exercise was completely unnecessary. Sure, there were a couple of years there were people were maimed and killed, even several children (tens of dogs). However, given a chance for the community to acclimate to the new design, FDOT has been vindicated.

    You see the population of Brickell area leveled off at some point in 2011 and it has been falling steadily ever since. Restaurants closed, businesses moved away, and slowly but surely, Brickell Avenue returned to the moribund, closed at 6pm street it had always been. Parking is dirt cheap and rents in the area are even cheaper, and even though gas costs $6 a gallon– Let’s face facts, you can’t survive in Miami without a car. Everybody knows that!

    I remember the heady days of Bike Miami and ride-alongs or whatever they were called, but it was a flash in the pan. I think, with the advantage of hindsight, we need to congratulate the steady hand of the FDOT in forging ahead with their plans to repave and maintain Brickell Avenue as the shortcut from Coconut Grove to the Arena it was always intended to be. With so little traffic on the road now, I can easily make it to Heat games in 5 minutes. You have to give credit where credit is due.

    —-

    FDOT will always be proven right, no matter what they do, because communities will only grow as strong as the infrastructure that feeds them. Whether it is 5 years or 15, Miami is on an unsustainable trajectory without innovation and cooperation from FDOT, but why should they bother? They know what works. They collect the data and apply the standard. It’s road building, not rocket science.

    So if it is wildly unrealistic to ask for innovation from FDOT, the only hope for success is to present them with innovative designs and pray for their cooperation. If the project can’t be halted, perhaps FDOT could be persuaded to hold the project for a year while a civil engineering competition is held. Presumably, Brickell Avenue is sufficiently renown throughout the world to draw in the innovation needed to transform Brickell into a thoroughfare of progress.

    PS: Excessively cute crosswalks, undermine the purpose of crosswalks by replacing function with frivolity. Cute crosswalks are an addition on already calm streets where pedestrians are anticipated by drivers, but on Brickell Avenue today, it would be better to install no nonsense extra wide crosswalks until pedestrian activity is well established and respected.

       0 likes

  9. Rima says:

    Ned, that was really funny. I am glad you’re able to maintain your sense of humour in what really is a tragedy, and travesty. I live in Miami Beach and the equivalent to your Brickell Ave traffic nightmare is Alton Road. It is almost impossible to cross it safely. A little mini highway in our village. I was once told that it could never have a bike lane because guess who’s in charge of it – our friends of FDOT. Thumbs up to your hard work guys, and good luck. In 2016, I hope to be in a city/state where pedestrians and bicyclists are not harassed and killed, but revered and respected. That will most likely never be Florida, despite your valiant efforts.

       0 likes

  10. Eli says:

    Felipe, I understand your frustration and I sincerely appreciate your efforts. I believe that Transit Miami is one of the most credible voices in this discussion and I genuinely want FDOT to take you seriously, that ‘s all.

    FDOT claims that they’ll have a response to their “new data” by Christmas. Let’s make sure to follow up with Ramon Sierra in the next two weeks and get those results as soon as they have them.

       0 likes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.