FDOT held public information meetings last week to present their Alton Road reconstruction project. The project is scheduled to kick off just 1 week, April 1st 2013, and lasts until “summer 2015″ and costs an estimated $32 Million. The presentation by FDOT touched on the main work items, in particular the 3 pump stations and drainage system that will be installed, as well as the reconstruction (repavement) of Alton Road. The project Fact Sheet gives an overview of the project.

Residents and business owners listened attentively as FDOT presented the project. Almost everyone agrees that the project is necessary as flooding has been a huge issue in this area of Miami Beach. However, the project includes re-routing Alton Road traffic onto West Avenue for the majority of it’s duration. For this purpose, West Ave is reconfigured into a 3-lane road (currently 2 lanes with a turning lane). For a period of at least 6 months, all Alton Road traffic will be North-bound-only, and all South-bound traffic will be re-routed to West Ave.

As a resident of West Ave, this certainly caught my attention. West Ave is a rather residential street that is home to large condominiums such as the Mirador, the Waverly, the Floridian and many smaller buildings.  According to the 2010 Census, over 30,000 people live within 10 blocks of this 15 block section of Alton Road. As opposed to busy Ocean Drive or Washington Ave, West Ave does not host many tourist-geared businesses, and the few restaurants and shops are mostly frequented by locals. People enjoy walking their dogs and strollers on West Ave, stopping by Whole Foods or Epicure for some groceries, or linger over a coffee on Starbuck’s patio. There is a lot of Decobike usage on West Ave. So when the FDOT representative announced without a blink of his eye that this same West Ave would be “reconfigured to allow for alternate traffic flow” – my heart skipped a beat.

Alton Road FDOT

 

I began wondering what it will be like to have the street I live (and bike, and walk, and run, and take my daughter for walks) on turned into a one-way 3-lane highway from one day to another. As it is, cars are rather disrespectful on West Ave and, despite beautiful little reminders posted in the intersections that it’s the LAW to YIELD to pedestrians, I am usually forced to speed-walk across West Ave when there is a short pause in traffic. How will this be when delivery trucks, county buses, tourists, taxis, and simply everyone else that needs to get on or off the beach will be driving past my front yard? Examples of other one-way 3-lane highways such as “Calle Ocho” in Miami prove this setup is deathly to the neighbourhood (when is the last time YOU decided to stroll on Calle Ocho for fun?). Let alone the pollution and noise caused by such a major highway – now I am worried that I won’t even be able to exit my condo without actually risking my life. As one speaker at the public forum begged FDOT to understand – “we live here. And  - we paid a lot of money for it…”.

But wait, there is more! If at least this massive project provided some safer options for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate Alton Road in the end, it might all be worth it, right? After all, as was previously pointed out by Transit Miami, “Miami Beach bikes and walks to work“, and Miami Beach claims that “the City and residents of Miami Beach have identified bicycle improvements and programs as part of their strategic plan and as a priority goal“. So surely, some improvements must be planned for Alton Road to meet this “priority goal”! Perhaps Alton Road will boast broad tree-covered sidewalks, with a bike lane, and patios for restaurants? This would give us something to look forward to at the end of all the years of noise, traffic, congestion, and pollution…perhaps Alton Road will look something like this, as envisioned by the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association?

Alton Road Vision

One can always dream…well, in short: this is not what Alton Road is going to look like. Alas, there is no grand plan by FDOT (suprise!) and there will be no bike lanes on Alton Road. However, FDOT is kind enough to include sharrows on Alton Road. Yes, you read that right. According to Daniel Iglesias, the engineer in charge, given studies and research from their side, sharrows are “the safest option“. Let that sink in for a moment. Now – there may be some lunatics crazy enough to bike just about anywhere – on mountain tops and in river beds – but I challenge anyone to actually bike on an inner-city highway heavily frequented by buses, trucks, and careless Miami drivers – on a sharrow. This thought would be funny – if it weren’t so terribly sad.

The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association has expressed significant opposition to the FDOT plan for the reconstruction of Alton Road. In their view, “Alton Road reconstruction is a once in 50 year event to properly address the multiple needs of all user groups – multi-modal mobility options for pedestrians, bikers, autos, and transit users, contribute to a functional environment for business and with trees, landscaping and street furniture foster an attractive and safe neighborhood for our residents and visitors [...]. This ill-formed Alton Road project is going to create safety issues for all types of transportation (pedestrian, motorized and non-motorized vehicles) and create a detrimental impact on the businesses and property owners along this essential commercial corridor. [...] Join us in our outrage over a plan that emphasizes speed at the expense of safety, economic vitality, and quality of life.”.

The West Avenue Neighbourhood Association has also expressed concerns with the project, stating that “FDOT is placing an undue burden on a highly residential neighborhood“.

We will keep monitoring this project closely and provide status updates.

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14 Responses to West Ave – Miami Beach’s new superhighway?

  1. Gables says:

    I would like to point out that sharrows were added to Washington Avenue. If sharrows are such a good option on these busy streets, then perhaps FDOT could explain why hardly any bicyclists use the Washington Avenue sharrows. The bicyclists ride on the sidewalks because it is too dangerous to ride on the street. I’m no expert, but I predict a similar situation for the future Alton Road sharrows. At some point, if cities want to ensure residents a high quality of life, they need to take responsibility of the streets from FDOT. Isn’t that how Coral Gables maintains Coral Way? Also, where is the City of Miami Beach in all of this? Have they commented on the proposed Alton Road rebuild or argued for safer streets? What is there stance?

       2 likes

  2. Rocco says:

    Correct Gables. Per a study of the Washington Ave sharrows, the percentage of riders on the sidewalk went from 55% to 45%. That’s still nearly half the cyclists using the sidewalk because they clearly don’t feel comfortable in the road. Understandably so. That study was posted here on TM last year at some point I recall. We need an all out revolt against FDOT. They are dictating the terms of our city and we need to STOP ALLOWING TRAFFIC ENGINEERS control our city. We need to take it back!

       1 likes

  3. Rima Gerhard says:

    The City of Miami Beach appears to be partly to blame here. From what I understand, the original plans included bike lanes on Alton Road, at the expense of losing parking spots. The city rebelled and an agreement was made that bike lanes would be added to West Ave instead. Long story short, we now have no lanes coming anywhere in the foreseeable future. But hey, larger travel lanes on Alton Road for cars – yay!

       2 likes

  4. Mike Moskos says:

    Alton is one of the main roads on Miami Beach and it needs to be treated as such, setting the tone for the entire experience of being on Miami Beach (rather than simply allowing short term visitors to move out quickly). The best solution I see is for the City to take over Alton (and every other state owned road within the city limits) from FDOT and develop the type of street that befits Miami Beach.

       4 likes

  5. Ioannis Suarez says:

    I Agree 100% with the author of this post. Good job Rima.
    FDOT had proven over and over to not be concerned about bike and pedestrian safety but to rather give priority to cars. They are still stuck in the 70′s and I can imagine then as a bunch of bureaucratic driving their big cars and going back to their suburban houses. No body in their right mind that lives in a city like Miami Beach will plan something so ridiculous as this Alton Road “reconstruction”.
    No body that rides a bike will ever plan a sharrows in Alton Road. Yet, this people plan it beacause they dont care, but hey, they have to put something on paper for the later propaganda of being a bike friendly city or organization?
    Shame on you both Miami Beach and FDOT.

       4 likes

  6. Craig Chester says:

    Rima, thank you for covering this and being the eyes and ears for TM on Miami Beach!

       0 likes

  7. Gayle says:

    Comparing our future situation on West Ave to 3 lanes of heavy traffic like that of Calle Ocha gives me a clear visual and it’s frightening.

       0 likes

  8. JM Palacios says:

    I was at FDOT District 6 for an interview. Do you realize that their office is located next to the Dolphin Mall, barely within the Urban Boundary Line and convenient to the 836 and the Homestead Extension? So “stuck in the 70s” is a fair description. Perhaps they should move to downtown Miami and learn what it means to work in a city.

       2 likes

  9. Isaac Hernandez says:

    Yes, JM Palacios is right.

    I was there too.

    I was there in October 2012 and its just as Mr. Palacios says. And the roads are so wide… I was like WHOA!!! think BIZARRO world because, the FDOT District 6 office is right there, at the epicenter, and I’m like WTF?!? no-way? this is a joke; -right?

    Allowing the FDOT District 6 office to shape Miami Beach is like precision cutting with a shovel!

    Rima you should get Victoria into this. She’s determined just like you.

       3 likes

  10. miamiman says:

    Now that the Miami Herald has also decamped for the hinterlands of Doral, should we expect less coverage from them on urban development as well? Who will take the lead?

       1 likes

  11. Todd says:

    Thank you for the informative article. I have several questions and comments:
    1. The Venetian Island Homeowners Association was very involved in the Venetian Causeway reconstruction project. Citizen involvement is crucial. Residents know what is necessary to improve quality of life. Traffic planners are generally interested in moving massive numbers of cars safely which is not necessarily conducive to a residential neighborhood.
    2. Are there plans to rebuild West Avenue? Is West Avenue a County or a Miami Beach Road. There should be a Master Plan for both West Avenue and Alton Road.
    3. What is the position of our elected officials on the Alton Road project? All impacted neighborhood associations need to come together, agree to an agenda and apply pressure for what we want. There is strength in voting numbers which this area has.
    The Alton Road project should be done once and it should be done right. It should be designed to calm traffic, facilitate commerce, encourage pedestrians and bikers and overall improve the quality of life of the tax paying RESIDENTS of Miami Beach.

       5 likes

  12. jose says:

    If i don’t feel safe on the road i take the sidewalk,my life is to precious.I guess they want the pedestrian to share sidewalk with bicycle

       0 likes

  13. Rima Gerhard says:

    Todd, here are the answers I do know:
    1. The Venetian Island Homeowners Association was very involved in the Venetian Causeway reconstruction project. Citizen involvement is crucial. –That is right! Both the West Avenue Neighborhood Association and the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association were very active in raising concerns and in fact opposing aspects of the projects.

    2. Are there plans to rebuild West Avenue? Is West Avenue a County or a Miami Beach Road. There should be a Master Plan for both West Avenue and Alton Road.
    It’s a City Road. Nothing that I am aware of, other than “reconfiguring West Ave to it’s original condition” once all the mess is over.

    3. What is the position of our elected officials on the Alton Road project? All impacted neighborhood associations need to come together, agree to an agenda and apply pressure for what we want. There is strength in voting numbers which this area has.
    I have no received any response from any of them. Perhaps they don’t live on West Ave. Perhaps they don’t think there are enough voters here to care.

       1 likes

  14. Catherine says:

    I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I’m hoping the same high-grade site post from you in the upcoming as well.

       0 likes

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