Currently viewing the tag: "FDOT"

The decisive role of the highways in determining the fate of Overtown a half century ago is not lost upon City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.

The southern part of Ms. Spence-Jones’ District #5 (marked in pink the map below) covers Overtown, and she’s clearly had a history lesson or two on the role of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in her historic, predominantly black, socio-economically disadvantaged, yet eager-to-reemerge district.

At last month’s May 23 Commission meeting, fellow City of Miami Commission Marc Sarnoff (District #2; marked in orange below) first brought Resolution #13-00581 to the floor.

2012CommissionDistricts_CityOfMiami

Map Source: City of Miami

As we’ve extensively noted over the past few days, Resolution #13-00581 (as originally written) would have transferred control of Brickell Avenue from FDOT to the City of Miami.

Referring to Brickell as the “Park Avenue of Miami”, Sarnoff made a compelling case for the resolution, further emphasizing the potential for better speed control and safety provisions on the financial business district’s most critical artery. He continued:

Now we have the opportunity to own Brickell. This is a very, very big piece for the City of Miami — to take ownership and control of its own Park Avenue. And I just don’t want this opportunity to slip.

On these points, TransitMiami couldn’t agree more with Sarnoff.

Critical to understand, though, is that (in its original form) Resolution #13-00581 would have required the City of Miami to give up control of a handful of important streets in the Historic Overtown / Downtown Miami District. In fact, FDOT was actually trying to take more roadway length than it was actually relinquishing.

Fortunately, FDOT’s desperate grab for Overtown’s historic streets met with a ferocious defense from Commissioner Spence-Jones, demonstrating her thorough understanding of the agency’s highway history in Overtown.

Read closely — this one’s a classic!

City of Miami Commissioner for District #5, Spence Jones.

City of Miami Commissioner for District #5, Spence Jones.

Unfortunately, FDOT gets an ‘F’ for our community in Overtown.

They have been responsible for not only destroying a very prevalent African-American community, but also displacing many of them, many of the people that live there. [...]

I am very uncomfortable with giving up any anything in Overtown — in any way — until they handle what they promised they’d handle. There’s things that FDOT has said that they’re going to do [...]. They say one thing, and then it’s a totally different thing.

They haven’t done anything that they committed to do. So, you know, for me to give up something or allow them to take one thing over the other and not have them live up to their responsibility to the residents of Overtown — I have an issue and a concern with it.

So all I asked was for [City of Miami Assistant Manager Alice Bravo] and [City of Miami Manager Johnny Martinez] to set-up a meeting with FDOT and let’s go through all these items that the residents of Overtown have asked for that they have not complied with. [...]

It’s amazing that in the midst of getting [Resolution #13-00581] negotiated, my district [District #5] was considered in it without even having a discussion with me . . . because I would have told you then, that anything that FDOT is doing in Overtown — we got issues! [...]

And then, not only that; beyond that: They promised that they would not take anybody’s property. The next thing I know, they’re taking people’s property!

Then I’m hearing again — without us even having a conversation — you know, the properties that we’re building in Overtown, or trying to create in Overtown . . . now they want to take that side of 14th Street and 3rd Avenue from the businesses that we just put money into . . . so — I got issues with FDOT!

It don’t have anything to do with Brickell [...]. [...]

So all I’m asking is that I would like to have a meeting with FDOT to make sure that our issues get resolved. [...]

If you’re talking about giving them something in OT — Yes! The District 5 Commissioner has a big issue and big problem with it. I’m not saying you can’t get [the transfer of Brickell to the City of Miami done ...]

But Overtown — when it comes to I-95, roadways, highways, anything that sounds like that — it’s a problem for us in Overtown.

It destroyed a community. [...]

TransitMiami has one word for Comissioner Spence-Jones: Righteous!

Resolution #13-00581 was ultimately passed (3 commissioners in favor; 0 opposed) at the most recent Commission meeting on June 13. Fortunately, though, the Resolution was amended to exclude at least parts of the streets in the Overtown / Historic Downtown Miami District. TransitMiami will follow-up with more details soon.

As for now, though, just try to bask in a bit of the glory of Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’ passionate words in defense of her district and the people of Overtown, and our community at-large. Kudos to you, Commissioner Spence-Jones!

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Our local public radio station, WLRN, published a fantastic, must-hear/must-see piece this morning on  “How I-95 Shattered the World of Miami’s Early Overtown Residents”.

In it, reporter Nadege Green of WLRN / The Miami Herald makes some excellent inquiries into the glorious past that was once thriving Colored Town.

As narrated in the radio piece:

Overtown was known as the Harlem of the South. [Jazz legends] Cab CallowayNat King Cole, and Billie Holiday performed in Miami Beach. But because of segregation, they weren’t allowed to stay there. They’d stay in Overtown . . . at hotels like the Sir John and the Mary Elizabeth. And they jammed late into the night with locals.

Source: The Miami Herald. "Demolition of the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown. COURTESY OF THE BLACK ARCHIVES" http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

Source: The Miami Herald. “Demolition of the Mary Elizabeth Hotel in Overtown. COURTESY OF THE BLACK ARCHIVES” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

As decried by 70 year-old, long-time Overtown resident, General White:

Well there’s nothing but a big overpass now!

He’s referring to Interstates 95 and 395, which Nadege Green explains were built in the 1960s. After that:

Overtown was never the same. [Mr. General White] and thousands of other people here were forced out to make room for the highway.

MiamiHerald_I95_Overtown_Construction

Source: The Miami Herald. “Overview of I-395 looking east in Miami, August 23, 1967. The Miami Herald building can be seen in far background left and the Freedom Tower in far background right. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

3-D view of I-95 looking east, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

3-D view of I-395 looking east, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

Source: The Miami Herald. "Overview to I-95 looking south in Miami, August 23, 1967. Mt. Zion Church in foreground left, at NW 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. Old Courthouse is background left. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE" http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

Source: The Miami Herald. “Overview to I-95 looking south in Miami, August 23, 1967. Mt. Zion Church in foreground left, at NW 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. Old Courthouse is background left. JOHN PINEDA / MIAMI HERALD FILE” http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/01/30/880086/overtowns-heyday.html

3-D view of I-95 looking south, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

3-D view of I-95 looking south, afforded by Google Earth, June 17, 2013.

Be sure to listen and read that eye-opening WLRN piece on the tragic history of the once glorious heart of Miami called Overtown, and the role of the highway in tearing it out.

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The City of Miami will be voting today on Resolution #13-00581.

This resolution would formalize the transfer of Brickell Avenue — arguably the most economically important thoroughfare in Miami — from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the City of Miami, from the State to the City.

This resolution would also formalize the transfer of a handful of streets in the Historic Downtown District of Miami from the City of Miami to FDOT, from the City to the State.

Under whose jurisdiction do Miami’s downtown streets belong?

Your voice matters! Cast your vote!

online poll by Opinion Stage

 

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At last week’s 2013 Transportation Summit, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 6 Secretary, Mr. Gus Pego, was in attendance.

Gus PEGO

Gus Pego, FDOT Secretary, District #6.

This was my first encounter with Mr. Pego in person and, despite the criticism we tend to launch at his district, he seemed like a really nice guy.

He was extremely diplomatic during the Summit. He didn’t seem to get defensive when audience members highlighted the contradictory and misguided actions of his agency. Generally, it appeared as if he has developed rather thick skin to cope with the criticisms launched at his agency (many of which have admittedly come from TransitMiami).

Mr. Pego’s demeanor reminded me of a political figure: an approachable, laid-back kind of guy who would be entertaining to have a beer with, but probably not one with whom you’d want to get into anything even slightly resembling a discussion of philosophy.

Nonetheless, you have to give the man credit. His job cannot possibly be easy.

I was among the (surprisingly few) private citizens who questioned Mr. Pego on the role FDOT plays here in Miami.

I asked him specifically about the proposed swap between FDOT and the City of Miami for some downtown Miami streets.

FDOT_CoM_Transfer

The core of my question was simple: “Why does FDOT want our streets?”

His answer was deceptively reassuring to me; it went something along the lines of:

  • Typically when there’s a transfer of road jurisdiction, the municipality [in this case the City of Miami] will try to offset the costs of taking over control and maintenance.
  • To offset the costs of controlling and maintaining new streets, the municipality will typically forfeit control of other streets.
  • The municipality will typically request that FDOT assume responsibility of these other streets to avoid the extra financial burden.

All right . . .  so . . . the City can’t carry the supposedly heavy costs of running its own streets, so it goes to FDOT asking for help. FDOT generously helps them out by taking new streets off their hands. Hmm . . .

It seemed to make sense (for about 11 seconds). But something still didn’t sit right with me. FDOT seemed way too gung-ho about the whole thing.

The last part of Pego’s response was the real doozy:

  • If the City of Miami determines that they wish to keep jurisdiction of those streets [as opposed to exchanging them for jurisdiction over Brickell Avenue], then FDOT would be fine with that.

At that point, I thought to myself: Man, this guy’s not the transportation megalomaniac those weirdos over at TransitMiami often try to make him out to be. He’s just a good, straight-talking guy. That’s all. . . .

Ah, but then I found FDOT’s official position on the proposed swap. Then I realized that us summit attendees had been duped. Those words were spoken just to appease those in the crowd who applauded the question.

The truth of the matter is that FDOT does indeed want our streets.

Take, for example, this excerpt from the June 3, 2013 letter from FDOT’s Mr. Gus Pego to Mr. Johnny Martinez, City Manager for the City of Miami:

The [Florida Department of Transportation] has recently completed a countywide analysis of potential roadway transfers [...]. The proposed roadway transfers should prove to be beneficial for the City and the State. We look forward to working with the City of Miami in a mutually beneficial relationship to effect these transfers.

Or, here’s the formal City of Miami piece of legislation in the form of a resolution. It  also demonstrates how FDOT isn’t the selfless hero Mr. Pego wanted to portray it as:

Whereas, the [Florida Department of Transportation] has determined that it would be beneficial to the State of Florida to assume jurisdictional responsibility for [all the roads listed in the table below].

miami_to_fdot

So . . . FDOT is not, in fact, coming nobly to the City of Miami’s financial rescue as Mr. Pego would like to have us think. Quite the contrary, FDOT is in it for it’s own good, not the well-being of the community.

We can be sure that FDOT does indeed want our streets. The real question persists, though: Why?

They’ve studied our streets, and they’ve targeted the ones they want most. They have plans for them.

What those plans are, I do not know. Mr. Pego, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter . . .

 

This article was edited for content on 6/13/13 from it’s original format.

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Tomorrow, on Thursday, June 13, the City of Miami City Commission will consider Resolution #13-00581.

This resolution would formalize the transfer of virtually all of downtown Miami’s Brickell Avenue from the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to the jurisdiction of the City of Miami.

Think about that: Brickell Avenue. It’s the core of our financial business district and a burgeoning residential and commercial area.

One wonders why FDOT ever had control of one of our city’s most important thoroughfares in the first place.

fdot_to_miami

It’s great news. Our city’s streets belong in the hands of our own local municipalities. They don’t belong in the hands of techno-bureaucrats up in Tallahassee, nor in any other one of FDOT’s just-as-detached satellite offices.

While far from perfect, our local public officials and planners are more sensitive to the day-to-day realities on our streets; they are more aware of land-use dynamics and current and pending real estate developments; they are more conscious of existing long-range and master planning documents (including plans for special districts, public transit corridors, bicycles and greenways, waterfronts, ecologically-sensitive areas, etc.); they typically have deeper, more productive working relationships with other locally-based jurisdictions; they better understand the on-the-ground interplay of bicycle, pedestrian, and motor traffic; they are more sincerely invested in the well-being of the local community of which they themselves are a part; and, most importantly, our local planners and politicians are comparatively far more accessible and accountable to us, the people to whom the streets belong.

FDOT_CoM_Transfer

Note the streets highlighted in blue in the map inset; they run through the City of Miami’s Downtown Historic District, in southeastern Overtown. Those are the streets FDOT wants to take from the City of Miami. In return, the City of Miami would get the one in red, Brickell Drive. Map produced by FDOT.

So all is well in the Magic City, right? FDOT is beginning to realize that its role in 21st century Miami is growing smaller and smaller and we’re more than capable of running our own streets.

The state transportation juggernaut is starting to return our city streets to the local government authorities because it’s reached the undeniable conclusion that local municipalities and counties can run their own streets better than some gigantic, geographically-disconnected government bureaucracy . . . right?

Wrong.

In exchange for relinquishing Brickell Avenue to the City (where it belongs), FDOT wants something — quite a lot, actually — in return. Specifically, FDOT wants several streets running through the Downtown Miami Historic District (see the table below).

miami_to_fdot

In total, FDOT is trying to take 2.4 center lane miles from the City of Miami in exchange for about 1.9 center lane miles.

(A “center lane mile” is the length of the actual road, from point A to point B. A standard “lane mile” takes into account the number of lanes on that same stretch from point A to point B.)

CityOfMiami_HistoricDowntownDistrict
FDOT wants to take = 2.40 miles

FDOT wants to give = 1.92 miles

Thus, not only is FDOT pursuing streets it really has no right to and should have no interest in to begin with, but it’s actually trying to take more street length from the City than it is offering!

The City Commission will be voting on this around 2:00pm on Thursday, June 13.

Mr. Mayor and City Commissioners: Take what belongs to the people of the City of Miami. Bring Brickell Avenue under our local jurisdiction.

But do not, under any circumstances, forfeit those streets in the Historic Downtown District to the State.

FDOT should give = 1.92 miles

City of Miami should give = 0.00 miles

The real question is: Why does FDOT want control of our local streets to begin with?

 

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Forty years since the publication of a visionary transportation planning document, the shortcomings of Miami-Dade County’s transportation reality suggest that we lost our vision somewhere along the highway, literally.

TransitMiami invites you to take brief trip through time . . .

THE PAST

The year is 1973. The Dade County Public Works Department has just released its State Transportation Programs Proposal for Dade County 1973-74.

In it, a chapter titled Mass Transit (pp. 72-98) makes declarations of a new “beginning on development of a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County, in which “non-highway elements” are stressed to be at least part of the solution to Dade County’s burgeoning population and economy.

Indeed, there seems to be a fundamentally new consciousness — dare I say, a paradigm shift — reorienting the urban planning and public policy realms away from highways and toward mass transit.

StateTransportationProgramsProposedForDadeCounty_1973_1974

Around 1973, this is the vision the County had for University Metrorail Station. Note the dedicated busway right along US-1. Note the wide sidewalks and crosswalks. Note the number of pedestrians. Note the relative “completeness” of the streets, save for the absence of bicycle facilities, etc. Compare this with this same site (US-1 and Stanford Drive, Coral Gables) today, especially in light of recent considerations to build an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing US-1.

The beginning of that Mass Transit chapter reads:

Metropolitan Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation in recent years have become increasingly active in planning the improvement of mass transit facilities. With less emphasis on highways alone, programming efforts have been broadened to multi-modal transportation facilities, including airports, seaports, rapid transit, terminals for truck, rail and bus companies, as well as the highway and street system that serves them and provides local traffic needs.

There’s a sense that perhaps the mid-20th century notion of highways being the transportation panacea has finally begun to lose potency. A more holistic, more enlightened view has apparently begun to gain traction, one which posits that transportation corridors and corresponding land-uses perform best when designed to serve the myriad means and purposes of mobility, as well as the urban environment’s diversity of functions.

Here are some of the major mass transit proposals from the report:

  • 53.7 miles of high-speed transit served by 54 stations,
  • bus routes operating on expressways and arterial streets,
  • feeder bus routes to complement other bus routes and rapid transit,
  • mini-systems at selected transit terminals to provide local circulation and link traffic generating areas with rapid transit.

THE PRESENT

Fast-forward 40 years into the future. The year is 2013.

FDOT and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) — and the construction, automobile, and petroleum lobbies — actively and aggressively seek to expand highways.

Tax payers are being charged $560,000,000 (that’s right: more than half a billion!) for the highway expansion mega-project at the SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Interchange.

826_836_ProjectRendering_North

826_836_ProjectRendering_Southeast

Real estate developers eager to cash-in on building single-family cookie-cutter homes along the urban periphery in the west and south of the County lobby to transgress the Urban Development Boundary (UDB). Residential sprawl continues to lower the quality of life on the edges of the city.

Eager to keep its agency coffers growing, MDX writes hyperbolic reports emphasizing inflated demographic growth projections on these suburban outskirts, thereby seeking to further justify its southwestward expansion of SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway). MDX advocates for expanding tolled highways in order to generate increased revenues aimed at the perpetual expansion of highways in greater Miami.

SR-836-Southwest-1-Kendall-Extension-map

Those same city-destroying developers-of-sprawl back MDX — as do all others in the broader network of profiteers — because they perceive as far too lucrative to forego the opportunity to cash-in on pushing the boundary of Miami further into the Everglades and into our fresh water supplies.

Even on roads that have long exhausted their traditional function as “highways”, MDX pursues measures to retrofit them so as to restore their obsolete highway-performing characteristics. This is epitomized by MDX’s “US-1 Express Lanes”, whereby the agency hopes to reduce the dedicated South Dade busways to accommodate new tolled arterial travel lanes for private motorists, as well as, most notoriously, create elevated overpasses (that is, create more “HIGH-ways”).

US1_Elevated_expresslane

MDX_US1expressway_ShareFacilityPlan

FDOT, in collusion with MDX, actively seeks to expand the tolled Florida Turnpike in far south Miami-Dade County.

Meanwhile, our mere 23-station elevated heavy-rail Metrorail system traverses a very linear (and thus limited), virtually-non-networked 25 miles, including the recently added, yet long-overdue, Miami International Airport / Orange Line extension. This is literally less than half the of the 54 stations and 53.7 miles of rail network envisioned in the planning document from 40 years earlier.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Miami Transit in Perspective. Image courtesy of Leah Weston.

Planned expansions to the Metrorail intended to create a true network have been scrapped due to a lack of political will to secure dedicated funding sources, along with an over-abundance of administrative incompetence and corruption.

Taken_for_a_Ride_MetrorailCorridors_MiamiHerald

Source: “Taken for a Ride”. Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/

After decades of false starts, broken promises, gross mismanagement of public funds, and outright political apathy, the time is now to regain the vision put forth four decades ago. The time is now to withdraw ourselves from our toxic addiction to the 20th century model of single-occupancy vehicles congested on highways. We must stop supporting those who seek to destroy our collective public spaces for personal gain through the incessant construction of highways.

The time of the highway is over. The time for “a true multi-modal transportation system in Dade County  is now.

Has Miami-Dade County lost its vision for public transit over the last 40 years? — most definitely. However, one can find solace in the fact that this is not the Miami of 1973, nor of ’83, ’93, or ’03. We are no longer the Miami of the past.

This is the Miami of 2013. This is our time. It is up to us to set forward — and bring to fruition — the vision for the Miami of 2053 . . . and beyond.

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Is the optimal place for bicyclists really between speeding traffic and swinging car doors or is bicycle planning in most cities still just an afterthought? Can it really be the case that major arterial roadways planned for reconstruction like Alton Road in Miami Beach which are between 100′ and 120′ really have no room for bicycles?

The plan for Alton Road which the City of Miami Beach approved is still the wrong one but neighborhood organizations are not accepting that the plan is set in stone until the concrete is poured and dry.

alton

Though Miami Beach is in the top 10 cities in the nation for biking to work according to the US Census, a perfect storm of Department of Transportation heavy-handedness, local bureaucratic impassivity, and ineptitude on the part of elected representatives has led to a hugely expensive design no one endorses. Alton Road, expected to become a showpiece of island multi-modalism, will instead become a wide-lane, high-speed, completely-congested Department of Transportation boondoggle say residents. If Miami Beach can’t get a multi-modal design with its committed and educated pedestrian and cycling advocates is there any hope for the rest of the country?

8701885064_8c8e3cd237

Thousands of major arterials around the country are in the process of reconstruction right now as the first roadways of the Highway Act of 1956 are being rebuilt. And despite the amazing strides made in a few exceptional places, the default design on the traffic engineer’s books is still the wrong one. The difference now is that residents know better. This is making the job of elected officials who have always trusted the DOT very difficult. Something’s got to give.

Residents are available to discuss this important issue further.

Click here to visit the official website for the initiative.

On Facebook: Alton Road Reconstruction Coalition.

On the web:

Thanks,
Jason King
Miami Beach Resident and Urban Planner

A pedestrian bridge above US-1 at the University MetroRail station was recently approved by Miami-Dade County and is currently moving closer to an agreement. Though a state and federally funded project of $6 million, the University Centre mall owner has raised some concerns and is refusing to allow the county to build the bridge on its property. The bridge to channel university students, middle school students, metrorail riders, and others to the popular strip mall has been in the works for several years, joining the other existing US-1 overpasses. The Pedestrian Safety Access Committee formed with the long-term goal to build the pedestrian bridge in direct response to 3 student fatalities at the intersection since 1990, along with several accidents.

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge - Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County

Proposed Pedestrian Bridge at US-1 and University MetroRail Station: Note the bicyclist hugging the curb… (Rendering courtesy Miami-Dade County)

Looking at this situation at face value, this project makes perfect sense: people are dying on the intersection, so take the people off the intersection. But I challenge you to stand back and examine the bigger picture of crossing US-1 at this intersection and every other one in Coral Gables, South Miami, and beyond. Is the problem uniquely at this intersection, or along the entire stretch of the fast-moving, 6-lane highway? Due to very high speeds, awkward street-level pedestrian crossings, unbuffered and narrow sidewalks, and poor street lighting, I think we can agree that this stretch is hostile to non-motorists. Michelle Simmon, public involvement coordinator for Miami-Dade Transit stated back in 2007 that ‘the main purpose of the long-term bridge project is to encourage pedestrian safety while making the Coral Gables community more “walkable.” Yes, ‘channeling’ pedestrians into a bridge does have the potential of keeping pedestrians safe, but does it encourage walkability?

Pedestrian Convenience. A walkable community is possible when the built environment is convenient to the pedestrian, bicyclist, student, parent with baby stroller, etc. Making decisions that inhibit pedestrian convenience such as narrowing sidewalks, reducing crosswalks, ‘forcing’ people to go up and over a street – then these decisions make the built environment inconvenient and therefore, less walkable. But if we redesign the street to discourage speeding, add wider sidewalks buffered from vehicular traffic, pedestrian street lighting, and common-sense street-level crossings (and using a lot less than the $6 million) we could achieve both safety and walkability for all road users.

Neighborhood Unity. Instead of creating a street that welcomes its neighbors, we are making decisions (like numerous pedestrian bridges) that add up toward creating an automobile sewer. This is the root of the problem, and the reason for these vehicular deaths in the first place – we are literally trying to put a highway into the middle of a community. Why are we surprised that pedestrians, students, children are trying to cross the street in their own neighborhood? Instead of encouraging to further dissect this area, we need to consider the potential to transform this massive right-of-way into the safe neighborhood center the university, middle school, and residents deserve.

Traffic Priorities. The problem in this dangerous intersection is not the pedestrians, but the unobservant drivers. But who are we punishing? the pedestrians. And who are we prioritizing for dominion over the street even more? the drivers, observant or not. A walkable neighborhood is not void of cars, drivers, and traffic, but rather re-prioritizes its road space to accommodate a full range of transportation choices. Slowing traffic down does not guarantee more congestion either. In fact, some of the most efficient roads in the world are in slow-speed, walkable environments. By humanizing the thoroughfare with better street-level crossings, lighting, wider sidewalks, street trees, narrower traffic lanes, and even on-street parking, we can effectively slow traffic, and persuade drivers to be more alert, attentive, and vigilant, fostering a safer atmosphere for all.

If building this University Station pedestrian bridge could save just one life, then yes, its construction is more than worth it. But what’s next in encouraging safety and walkability? Are we going to continue constructing pedestrian bridges at every intersection over Dixie Highway – and with whose funds? And does that leave the people who will still cross at street level with a more dangerous thoroughfare? I challenge this community, the Pedestrian Safety Access Committee, Miami-Dade County, FDOT, and others involved to improve the pedestrian experience on the street level. In many ways the easiest solution is to build the pedestrian bridge. However, six million dollars can provide a lot of funding for this community if our residents and leaders are brave enough to tackle the root of the problem. We should not take these deaths lightly, but we do need to consider the full range of options to improve the safety, convenience, and value of the US-1 corridor. Just as Michelle Simmon from Miami-Dade Transit stated, “A livable community has to be a safe community.” By humanizing this dangerous, dissecting thoroughfare, we can not only save lives, but also our community.

Value Engineering. What does the term mean to you?

Think about it. Let’s decompose the term before seeking out a formal definition. To us, the concept of value engineering when applied to transportation projects, includes the pursuit of cost-effective methods to achieve a desired end result. It includes a suite of tools that would enable project managers to work with engineers and architects to lower the overall cost of the project without sacrificing a particular end goal. In more obscure words, the FDOT defines value engineering as:

“…the systematic application of function-oriented techniques by a multi-disciplined team to analyze and improve the value of a product, facility, system, or service.”

So, if we were to tell you that FDOT was actively seeking to value engineer the structure that will soon replace I-395, how would you feel? Let’s take a look back at the designs presented last year before we dive into our argument on why we shouldn’t cut corners on such a critical piece of infrastructure.

I-395_Miami_Bridge4

I-395_Miami_Bridge3

I-395_Miami_Bridge2

I-395_Miami_Bridge

For the unacquainted, over the past several years FDOT initiated the process to replace the 1.5 mile structure that links SR 836 east of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway. As the main artery between MIA, the Port of Miami, and South Beach, millions of visitors traverse this scenic stretch annually on the way to a cruise or the beaches. The byproduct of 1960’s urban renewal, I-395 ripped apart neighborhoods and displaced thousands from historic Overtown, today the structure continues to thwart efforts to unite our major public institutions including: The Arsht Center, Art and Science Museums (both currently under construction), and the AA Arena. As such, FDOT’s plans for I-395 will play a critical role in Miami’s ability to reshape the urban core and reunite Downtown, Parkwest, Omni, and Overtown districts.

Side note: Imagine what could become of the corner of N. Miami Avenue and 14th Street if the neighborhood were united with Downtown to the South or the Arsht Center to the east? The Citizens Bank Building (above), built during Miami’s boom years in 1925 could serve as a catalyst for growth in a neighborhood that has largely remained abandoned since urban renewal gutted Overtown. 

In this context, the concept of value engineering contradicts the livable, “sense of place” we’re working to achieve in Downtown. As it currently stands, I-395 and all the other roadways that access our barrier islands are utilitarian structures, serving little purpose other than to move vehicles from one land mass to another.

The challenge with I-395 is that it must satisfy numerous conflicting needs. I-395 isn’t just a bridge (or tunnel, or boulevard). It should serve as an icon; a figurative representation of Miami’s status as the Gateway to the Americas. A new I-395 will, should once and for all, eliminate the physical barrier that has long divided Downtown Miami from the Omni and Performing Arts Districts, encouraging more active uses below while maintaining the flow of traffic above. Not an easy feat. While the DDA and City of Miami recognize the economic value in designing an iconic structure at this site, our experience tells us that FDOT is more likely to think in the terms of dollars and LOS rather than the contextual and neighborhood needs. Simply put, this isn’t an ordinary site where a no-frills structure will suffice.

Cities all across the nation are eliminating derelict highways that for the past 40-50 years have scarred, divided, and polluted neighborhoods. Boston’s big dig for example submerged a 2-mile stretch of I-93 that had cut off the North End and Waterfront neighborhoods from downtown and the rest of the city. The Rose Kennedy Greenway, a 1.5 mile public park now stretches its length. Where the highway tunnel ends, an iconic structure, the Leonard P. Zakim Memorial Bridge takes over, leading traffic over the Charles River to points north. Adjacent to the TD Garden (home of the Celtics & Bruins) the Zakim Bridge is now synonymous with the Boston Skyline. Other notable examples include:

  • San Francisco’s Embarcardero Freeway
  • Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct
  • Hartford’s I-84 Viaduct

While no decision has been made on what final shape I-395’s replacement structure will take, our sources inform us that FDOT is beginning to explore more “cost effective” alternatives. We’ll keep eye on this project as it unfolds and will reach out to the City of Miami, DDA, and FDOT to ensure that Miami receives a replacement structure at this site worthy of its location in the heart of our burgeoning urban core. Moreover, we’ll remind FDOT that their third proposed objective for this project (3. Creating a visually appealing bridge) includes considering the aesthetics of the structure from all perspectives, especially the pedestrians and cyclists we’re trying to lure back into downtown streets.

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We received some good news from County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa a few minutes ago in response to our email this weekend:

I would like to thank the cycling community for expressing their opinions and concerns about this item that is of importance to all the residents of Miami-Dade, as many of us rely or know of someone who relies on bicycles as a means of transport and/or recreation. My intent in sponsoring this resolution was not to prevent bike lanes from being created. On the contrary, I support and embrace establishing bike lanes Countywide. I acted out of concern for the safety of cyclists, particularly on SW 57 AVE from SW 8 ST to SW 24 ST, where customers of businesses along this stretch of road back their cars directly onto SW 57 AVE. I am concerned that this would create an unsafe environment for cyclists. Additionally, I sought greater cooperation between FDOT, Miami-Dade County, and Municipalities to make sure we create an atmosphere where bike lanes continue to be encouraged while ensuring safety.

In light of your concerns, I am requesting this item be temporarily deferred to ensure nothing in this item will negatively impact the cycling community. Your opinions are always welcome.

Commissioner Rebeca Sosa
Miami-Dade County, District 6

Transit Miami would like to thank Commissioner Sosa for pulling the item from the agenda. We look forward to working with her office to work through some of the issues we raised with regards to item #121569  while fostering a healthy redevelopment of 57th Avenue that both enhances the mobility of all roadway users and supports the needs of local businesses. While we do agree that greater cooperation is needed between FDOT, Miami-Dade County, and the local municipalities, we believe that this discussion should take place in a public manner and in a fashion that affords the communities greater say over FDOT roadway projects.

From our friends over at Green Mobility Network:

Action Alert

Sept. 4 Resolution is Bad for Bicycling—Please Act Now!

Dear friends of bicycling,

We realize it’s the Labor Day Weekend and most of you are relaxing, but your immediate action is needed.

The Miami–Dade County Commission is being asked on Tuesday, Sept. 4, to help erode a progressive state law that requires accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians on state roads in urban areas. There will be no opportunity for public comment during the commission meeting, so we’re asking Commissioner Rebeca Sosa to withdraw her resolution or postpone it until we can meet with her.

The law, section 335.065 of the Florida Statutes, provides that bike lanes and sidewalks be given full consideration in the planning and development of state roads in urban areas. When the state Department of Transportation (FDOT) repaves or redesigns an urban street, it must provide for walkers and bicyclists as well as for drivers — or show why cost or safety makes doing so impractical.

The law was virtually ignored in South Florida for most of a generation, and now that advocates have succeeded in getting FDOT to follow the law it’s meeting resistance — first in Miami Beach and now in the Sept. 4 resolution Commissioner Sosa, representing District 6. She’s responding to the upcoming repaving of SW 57th Avenue between 8th Street and Bird Road, where state engineers plan to include a bike lane and are encountering constrained road dimensions in some areas.

FDOT can choose from a variety of bike facilities on roads like 57th Avenue. This resolution will only hurt the cause of making Miami-Dade’s streets safer for all users. We strongly urge Commissioner Sosa to pull this item from the agenda and work collaboratively with the bicycle community to advance better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout Miami-Dade County.

Please copy the following message and send it to the e-mail addresses below. Do it now! It’s not too late to stop this ill-advised resolution.

If you would prefer to register your concern by phone, please make two phone calls to request that the resolution be pulled from the agenda. You can call the following:

Mayor Carlos Gimenez: 305-375-5071
Commissioner Rebecca Sosa: 305-375-5696

BEGIN COPY-AND-PASTE–AND ADD YOUR NAME AT THE END OF THE MESSAGE

Re: Sept. 4, 2012, Agenda Item #121569–Bad for Bicycling–Please Pull From Agenda

To the Board of County Commissioners:

Agenda Item #121569 is bad for bicycling in Miami-Dade County and potentially the entire state of Florida. It would turn back the clock on significant progress in winning accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians in urban roadways. It was placed on your agenda without public input. I urge you to pull it from the agenda and make time for public discussion of this important matter.
END COPY-AND-PASTE

SEND TO THE INDIVIDUAL COMMISSIONERS–JUST COPY AND PASTE THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESSES INTO THE “TO” LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL SOFTWARE.

mayor@miamidade.gov, officeofthechair@miamidade.gov, bjordan@miamidade.gov, district2@miamidade.gov, district3@miamidade.gov, district4@miamidade.gov, district5@miamidade.gov, district6@miamidade.gov, District7@miamidade.gov, District8@miamidade.gov, DennisMoss@miamidade.gov, district10@miamidade.gov, district11@miamidade.gov, District12@miamidade.gov, district13@miamidade.gov

Once you’ve written, how about letting us know at our Facebook page? Your example will be encouraging to others.

This is not a bad joke, but an actual Miami Herald headline from this morning. Let’s put aside this insensitive headline.

I’m working on the assumption that the “dead man that is blocking traffic” was a pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle.  The Herald is reporting that Northeast 79th Street from Biscayne Boulevard to Miami Avenue has been blocked off.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with 79th Street it is another classic FDOT road that is designed to move cars as quickly as possible without considering the safety of pedestrians or cyclists-an urban highway if you will. Case in point: 79th Street has three lanes going west to east and one lane going east to west.  Needless to say, west to east traffic is moving in excess of 50 mph through the middle of our city! This is not an acceptable safety standard; never has and never will be.

There are approximately 10 blocks between Biscayne Boulevard and Miami Avenue; however we only find crosswalks at three intersections within these 10 blocks. This is also not an acceptable safety standard for pedestrians either; we need crosswalks at just about every one of these intersections. Does the FDOT expect pedestrians to walk six blocks out of their way just to get across the street? It’s no coincidence that Florida has the highest pedestrian fatality rate when you have streets designed like NE 79th Street.

The Miami Herald later updated the article and headline “Person in wheelchair hit by car and killed on Miami street”. Clearly this road is not suitable for a person in a wheel chair.

Please send an email to the FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Commissioner Sarnoff and let them know that this street is not suitable for pedestrians and cyclists. Click here to send an email to both gentlemen.

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Under the guise of hosting a discussion about the future of mobility in South Florida, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce has brought our leading transportation officials together with anti-transit Libertarian Robert Poole to go over their plans to greatly expand toll roads in Miami-Dade County.

Tapped by our soon-to-be-one-term Governor as one of his transportation advisors, Poole has finished an 18 month ‘study’ of how to improve transportation in South Florida. The reason for the study, according to a press release, is that “[The 2035 Long Range Plan] puts a major emphasis on alternatives to driving—transit, bicycling and walking. In fact, of the $58 billion available for transportation between 2015 and 2035, the plan devotes 62% to improving and operating various forms of transit. Unfortunately, if the plan is implemented as written, by 2035 a smaller fraction of all trips (2.6%) will be made via transit than the 2.9% made via transit today.”

Fair enough. That might be true, but that has more to do with the over reliance on BRT over rail transit. The conclusions made by the report are nothing less than preposterous for transportation and urban planners, pointing to ‘managed lanes’ as the panacea to our mobility challenges. (Insert gag here).From the press release:

The plan includes four key components:

A region-wide network of expressway managed lanes (MLs) like those on I-95, encompassing 302 route-miles and 1,117 lane-miles;

Upgrades for 14 key arterials (107 route-miles) with underpasses at major signalized intersections, an innovation we call “managed arterials” (MAs);

Premium bus rapid transit (BRT) as in the current long-range plan, but operating mostly on the “virtually exclusive busways” made possible by the network of MLs and MAs, rather than on politically dubious bus-only lanes;

A series of system operational improvements, including extensive expressway ramp metering and further expansion of traffic signal coordination.

These four components tell a striking story of the city that Poole (and his cohorts at FDOT and MDX) would have us inhabit. On the one hand Poole contends our current Long Range Transportation plan (with its reliance on BRT) is not going to be successful, yet his plan relies on the exact same BRT system (as stated above). He proposes that MDX and the Governor create tolled highways out of major arterials (like US1 and Flagler), utilizing overpasses and underpasses that will be costly to build and blight the city, to create revenue AND ‘premium bus rapid transit’ corridors. Unfortunately, bus rapid transit does not work on highways where folks cannot easily get on/off. The best BRT systems in the world run at grade, in a dedicated lane, and in the city center. This plan is doomed to fail because it views transit as an afterthought.

This is real BRT (from Bogota).

The idea of using transit as a way to sweeten an otherwise bad idea is not new. We have been reporting for some time about MDXs plan to run a highway parallel to US1, under the dubious assumption that it will greatly improve transit service. (Meanwhile, low cost transit improvements that would greatly improve service, like signal coordination, go unimplemented because of their impact on local traffic.)

MDX has been planning on tolling everyone for some time - they have just been sneaky about it.

 

There is so much to dislike about this plan that it is hard to know where to start. First the idea of greatly expanding tolls on what Poole calls “urban toll expressways” (ie. neighborhood streets) will create highways in places where we are trying to lower speeds and increase pedestrian, bicycle and transit use. These highways will be in direct competition with transit, and rather than be subsidized by the government, the costs will be borne by the citizens of South Florida. Already saddled with high tax and few mobility options, the Governor and MDX will double down on a failed transportation system by taxing residents, so that they can in turn build more highways! The Ponzi scheme developed by MDX to build and toll and build some more will be spread all over the land.

I am all for bus rapid transit, but it should not be used as a chaser for the bitter pill MDX and the Governor are trying to push down our throats. We need to continue to build our rail network and then we can start to feed into it with BRT. If officials want to create bus-only lanes, the way that every other city in America is doing, great! Close a lane of Bird Road, Coral Way, 8th street…etc. and have BRT running to the heart of our metropolis in its own dedicated lane; but don’t start building highways all over the city. It’s time for MDX to wake up and realize that mass transit is the future of our region – not highways. If it doesn’t evolve, it might find that there are a great many people, myself included, who don’t see a reason for it to exist anymore. We want transit – not tolls.

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Against the backdrop of what has been a tragic month on South Florida roadways, City of Miami residents and businesses can take solace that the upcoming Coral Way resurfacing project will now include numerous pedestrian safety improvements. Thanks to the work of District 4 City Commissioner Francis Suarez and the Transit Miami team, the residents of the Coral Way corridor will soon enjoy improved pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as a lower 35 mph speed limit as part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s upcoming 2.5 mile Coral Way resurfacing project.

The changes to the project come after FDOT officials originally presented designs for the corridor in November 2011 which were panned by advocates and elected officials for lacking pedestrian improvements; the plans maintained the meager crosswalk spacing and high speed design that typifies the corridor today.

Following the initial public meeting, Transit Miami was asked by District 4 staff to compile a list of pedestrian improvements that could be incorporated into the design. As a road resurfacing project, we were mindful that there was a limit to the improvements that could be made without drastically increasing the cost of the project. As such we identified a series of low cost, high impact interventions that could be incorporated into the project, which included:

  • Additional north/south crosswalks across Coral Way at every side street intersection – 13 total
  • Higher quality pedestrian crossings at major intersections (4 total)
  • Lower speed limit throughout

These recommendations were forwarded to Secretary Gus Pego by Commissioner Francis Suarez’s Chief-of-Staff, Mike Llorente, along with a note from that said, “The basic message – that the contemplated project fails to capitalize on the opportunity to make Coral Way more pedestrian friendly – is echoed by City Commissioner Suarez and several area residents who attended the community meeting on Wednesday. As you know, the contemplated project does not include any additional pedestrian crosswalks. As a result, pedestrians will continue to have access to only one crosswalk every five blocks, or .5 miles. The lack of crosswalks makes this area very difficult to navigate on foot.” (A phenomenon Transit Miami went on to document in a video post.)
After intense lobbying by the Commissioner and his staff, FDOT agreed to perform additional pedestrian counts and a speed study to gauge whether demand warranted additional crosswalks and a lower speed limit. Not surprisingly they documented a corridor whose pedestrian activity is growing despite the lack of adequate pedestrian facilities.

The analysis led District 6 staff to include five additional crosswalks across Coral Way; 4 with flashing beacons, and one new full intersection. In addition, the City will be able to financially contribute to enhanced crosswalks at major intersections, to include raised pavers and timed crosswalk signals. These measures will be accompanied by a reduction in the speed limit to 35 mph (throughout), and the inclusion of bicycle “sharrows” along the entire corridor from 13 Avenue to 37 Avenue. While not all of the recommendations were followed, FDOT agreed to a majority of what Transit Miami recommended.
Though still governed by their ‘data driven design’ mantra, FDOT’s changes to this project should be seen as encouraging news for green mobility advocates because they reflect an increase in pedestrian activity, even as measured by FDOT engineers. District 6 Secretary Gus Pego and Project Manager Ramon Sierra were clear that additional crosswalks could be requested in the near future as the corridor continues to develop more pedestrian activity. We’ve been documenting the rise of Coral Way for six years now, and now more than ever the corridor can boast that it has a vibrant future ahead. 
Kudos to Commissioner Suarez and his staff for going to bat for complete streets, and major kudos to FDOT for reevaluating their project and working together with elected officials and advocates to make these improvements. We hope that this project is an indication of how we might move forward, together to make our streets safer for all.

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Local bicyclists will ride the length of the M-Path on Jan. 14 to cross the new bridge over the Snapper Creek Expressway and celebrate the near-completion of the M-Path Extension. The 12-mile ride will start at Metrorail’s Brickell Station that Saturday at 10 a.m., continuing through Miami, Coral Gables, and South Miami to cross the bridge alongside U.S. 1 below SW 67th Avenue, then on to Continental Park, 10000 SW 82nd Ave.
“Including three cities and a county park in this ride is symbolic of how the M-Path ties our community together,” said Dario Gonzalez of Emerge Miami, one of three groups putting the ride together. The M-Path Extension officially opens sometime in February. That will mark the closure of the Dadeland Gap, the 1.2-mile section that was left out of the M-Path when it was built along with the Metrorail guideway on the former route of the Florida East Coast Railway. “The M-Path is a priceless asset for active, healthy living,” said John Hopkins, executive director of Green Mobility Network, which has made M-Path improvement a key goal of its advocacy program for the past four years. “We are thrilled to see it completed.”
At the Dadeland South Station, the path connects with the South Dade Trail – and from there you can ride beside the Busway all the way to Florida City. They combine to make a 31-mile, offroad route all the way to downtown Miami. Think what that means for walkers, joggers, and cyclists in omestead, in Goulds, in Pinecrest and so on, right up to the Miami River. “May the Snapper expressway bridge show that locally and statewide, we aggresively pursue and improve all types of green mobility which promote walking, biking, and transit,” said Maricé Chael, an architect and co-founder of Bike SoMi.

M-Path FAQs

The M-Path was built 28 years ago as a service road for the Miami Metrorail, the elevated commuter railroad between Dadeland and downtown Miami’s Brickell financial district. Joggers, cyclists and everyday strollers soon adopted it. Today it’s a popular commuter path for cyclists in Coral Gables and points south who enjoy breezing past the rush-hour drivers on South Dixie Highway. While Miami-Dade Transit owns the M-Path, the M-Path Extension was constructed under a contract managed by the Florida Department of Transportation. The project includes new pathway at each end and north of North Kendall Drive, seven signalized crossings, and the 200-foot bridge across the mouth of the Snapper Creek Expressway. There’s also an attractive stretch along the C-2 canal at the Dadeland North Station.
Surveyors started driving stakes to outline the new path in January 2011. The budgeted cost was $4.5 million. Initial financing came through Florida’s share of federal Transportation Enhancement funding, augmented by stimulus money after planners decided that adding a bridge to the initial plan would make for safer travel.  The work was carried out in a design-build partnership of C3TS, of Coral Gables, and Community Asphalt, of Hialeah. The steel-truss bridge was fabricated in Alabama and erected by Anzac Contractors, of Miami. For an FDOT fact sheet, visit http://www.fdotmiamidade.com/current-projects/south-miami-dade/m-path-extension-bicycle-andpedestrian-trail-.html  The county’s M-Path Master Plan outlines a series of safety enhancements to include lighting, signed and signalized crossings, and some path realignment. Plans for the first of those are underway.

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