The Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Miami Beach released recommendation for a West Avenue Bridge that would connect Sunset Harbour and West Avenue behind Epicure over the Collins Canal.
Presented at a public hearing Tuesday night at the Miami Beach Regional Library, engineers recommended a crossing with one northbound lane, one southbound lane, a southbound left-turn lane on to 17th Street and bike-pedestrian lanes in each direction.
Engineers told the crowd of about 80 people that they considered six alternatives during their study, ranging from doing nothing, adding some traffic safety measures without building a bridge, and four different bridge alternatives (with one vehicle lane and one bike lane each way to a five-lane plan (one north plus on a northbound right turn lane, with one southbound lane and two southbound left-turn lanes on to 17th Avenue plus a bike lane in each direction).
The recommended plan would cost roughly $4.1 million to build, and construction wouldn’t begin until 2013. The proposal still needs approval from the state, the federal government and the Miami Beach City Commission.
And commissioners will hear from affected neighborhoods, which where decidedly divided on whether a bridge should be built at all.
Residents from West Avenue — representing the south end and the area around Lincoln Road — said the bridge would bring too much traffic and would be dangerous to pedestrians.
“This is simply a way of dumping Alton Road traffic on to West Avenue,” said Gayle Durham, head of the West Avenue Homeowners Association. “I didn’t move to West Avenue to have a traffic jam at my front door.”
Homeowners from lower North Bay Road — the neighborhood immediately north of Sunset Harbour — also opposed the plan. They said they fear commuters avoiding Alton Road through Sunset Harbour would continue north on their quiet street of single-family homes.
Michael Hammond, president of the Lower North Bay Road Homeowner Association, said he raised concerns at a hearing in November about overflow traffic in his neighborhood, and engineers said they would address it.
“They have not contacted us, and have taken no additional steps. They are saying 12 percent of traffic will come off Alton Road. That’s 4,000 to 5,000 trips a day down West Avenue, up to the entrance to our street. How many will come to us? They don’t know. You’ve done nothing to address this issue.”
But representatives from Belle Isle and Collins Park said they believe the bridge will ease overall traffic in the area.
Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer said he was sympathetic to the worries of West Avenue residents, but development in Sunset Harbour — with the new Fresh Market, restaurants and additional retail and parking in the soon-to-be completed parking garage – demands the bridge.
“I do believe there is a problem on West Avenue and city has done a horrible job with enforcement,” he said. “But this bridge….is just inevitable. There is too much development without it.’
Former Miami Beach Commissioner Nancy Liebman, a resident of Belle Isle, said her daughter lives in Sunset Harbour and “it’s gridlock” at times there. She said she believes the bridge should be built — and the surrounding neighborhoods should band together to make sure improvements are made to make West Avenue safer and to shelter lower North Bay Road from Alton Road spillover traffic.
“I am very saddened to see that neighborhoods are pitted against neighborhoods,” she said. “