Category Archives: Venetian Causeway

Sunpass on the Venetian Causeway: transition happens Aug. 29

What Miami-Dade’s causeway folks have been saying would happen for more more than two years is about to become reality: the Venetian Causeway will convert to SunPass for tolls and annual pass use starting Friday, Aug. 29.

That means no one will need to stop at the toll Plaza on Biscayne Island; instead, SunPass will either register their car transponder or bill them toll-by-plate. The county predicts it will reduce the backups at the plaza during busy times.

Even though the county plans to close the easternmost span between Biscayne Island and Miami in the fall for a reconstruction that will take six to nine months, the SunPass conversion is moving forward.

If you are a Venetian annual pass holder (either an island resident or employed on the island) you’ll be getting a form in the mail that will enable you to register your SunPass so you won’t be billed.

You’ll need to provide your transponder number and plate number to link your plan account for the Venetian with your transponder to avoid per-trip fees.

Here’s the notification the county sent to Belle Isle condo managers:

From: Tolls (PWWM) [mailto:TOLLS@miamidade.gov]
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2014 3:03 PM
Cc: Bauman, Mike (PWWM)
Subject: SunPass Update

Dear Venetian Causeway Neighbors,

We are pleased to announce that the transition to SunPass is tentatively scheduled for Friday, August 29, 2014. When the conversion is complete, drivers will have improved travel time and traffic flow across the Causeway. Please be advised that in order to avoid per trip or Toll-By-Plate charges, each motorist must have a SunPass transponder. For annual plan holders, their account will be linked to their SunPass account so that they will not incur any additional charges.

In an effort to keep you informed of the progress:

– A letter has been sent to all current annual plan holders to obtain their SunPass transponder numbers

– All plan holder accounts will be updated with the SunPass transponder data

– Flyers and other informational material will be distributed in the lanes and available at the Venetian Customer Service Center

– Signage announcing the change will be in place–

E-mail address tolls@miamidade.gov has been established to address questions and concerns

We will provide additional updates as needed.

Thank you,

Causeways Division

Venetian Island homeowners wrangle to keep traffic flowing during bridge construction

How will we get off our islands when construction causes the closure of the westernmost span of Venetian Way, between Biscayne Island and mainland Miami?

Some members of the Venetian Islands Homeowner Association are actively lobbying the keep the easternmost drawbridge locked down during that time, which will begin some time in the fall.

The Miami Herald’s Cristina Veiga has a detailed look at issues.

Venetian could get thorough makeover, FDOT says

Florida Department of Transportation officials held their advertising first meeting on the future of the Venetian Causeway on Wednesday night.

Among the requests — changing the name of the residential link between mainland Miami and Miami Beach from “causeway” to Venetian Way.

Here’s the coverage from the Herald.

 

What’s next for Venetian Causeway? FDOT starts the process Wednesday

We’ve resigned ourselves to the closure of the westernmost Venetian Causeway bridge, expected to begin around September or October so the segment can be rebuilt.

Miami-Dade County last month approved spending $10 million on that project, which they say will take six to nine months. And we know engineering reports say the other Venetian bridges at minimum need repairs, some more significant than others.

We could learn more next week, when the Florida Department of Transportation holds an informational meeting on its Venetian Causeway project development and environmental study.

According to the FDOT press release, “the meeting will provide an introduction to the project and present information regarding the existing conditions and the schedule for the study.”

The meeting happens Wednesday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 2 St., near the Bass Museum.

There is an FDOT website on the project.

Miami-Dade approves $10 million to repair Venetian island bridge to mainland

Miami-Dade County commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $10.1 million on a emergency basis for the design and construction of a replacement bridge for the westernmost bridge span on Venetian Way.

The vote will enable the county to demolish, design and rebuild the the bridge more quickly — and without a competitive bidding process. In a memo to commissioners, Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak said the design phase will take about four months, and the constrcution will take six to nine months.

That means, Venetian Way Neighborhood Alliance Presdient Jack Hartog said in a note to island residents, we’re roughly looking at a construction start in October and completion in some time between April and July 2015.

VWNA will have issues to tackle between now and when the bridge closes for construction, Hartog said.

“We need to work now so that when the bridge is closed we can:

– Ensure emergency and other needed services to the Venetian Islands continue;

– Find viable ways for allowing at least pedestrian and bicyle traffic to get back and forth between the mainland and Biscayne Island;

– Make sure this inconvenience is as short as possible.”

In her memo to commissioners, Hudak said that the structural issues with the bridge was so severe that waiting could mean more reductions in the weight of vehicles permitted to cross the bridge. Now, the weight is limited to 5 tons, restricting bus service to the islands from Miami.

“A delay to commence the necessary construction activities can further impact the existing restrictions to the use of the Bridge Segment, placing a significant and prolonged impact on its users,” Hudak said. “The procurement of the contract is expected to take four (4) months, with actual construction to take six (6) to nine (9) months thereafter, during which time the Bridge Segment would be closed to vehicular traffic. The work, currently estimated at $10,100,000, will consist of the complete demolition of the existing Bridge Segment, and the construction of an entirely new bridge from foundations to bridge deck.

“Once completed, the current five (5) ton weight restriction will be removed and the life expectancy of the entire West Venetian Bascule Bridge will be 60 years.”

Meanwhile, Hartog notes, the Florida Department of Transportation is reviewing how to repair or replace the other 11 bridges that make up the crossing from mainland Miami to Miami Beach.

That study will address ‘viable replacement alternatives, the historic nature of the bridges, public and private stakeholder concerns, environmental impacts and potential costs.” The study will take at least another four to five years, accrdoing to the memo.

 

Beach commissioners ask Miami-Dade to restore Belle Isle bus service, hours

Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved resolutions urging improvements in bus service to Belle Isle and the Venetian islands in the wake of cutbacks put in place last month by Miami-Dade Transit.

The cutbacks were triggered by new weight limits on Venetian bridges because of structural weaknesses. But Miami-Dade began using lighter buses on a more limited scheduile this week. Venetian Way residents want a full schedule restored. The commission resolution asked for service between 6:30 a.m. and midnight.

City commissioners agreed at their meeting Wednesday. Commissioners Michael Grieco proposed a resolution that the county resume its normal schedule for the Route A bus, which links Miami and Miami Beach, and it passed unanimously.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a resolution asking the county to ensure easy, practical, and reliable public transportation from Belle Isle to all South Beach destinations. Belle Isle resident Barbara Cowen, who led a petition drive in the wake of the reduced bus service, pushed for the resolution.

Mayor Philip Levine instructed the city’s transportation department to pursue bringing trolley service to Belle Isle.

Stay tuned.

Miami-Dade resumes collecting $24 Venetian Causeway administrative fee

Last Wednesday, on the heels of the news that the Venetian Causeway bridge between mainland Miami and the islands would have to be demolished and rebuilt, the folks who run the roadway made more news:

Miami-Dade’s Causeway Division stopped collecting the $24 administrative fee its long charged Venetian property owners for toll transponders.

That move came a week before the April 30 deadline to pay the fee — and some residents had already paid up.

But on April 23, people were turned away. One of them was Belle Isle resident Steve Neifeld, who showed up at the toll plaza office to pay for two cars registered at his 9 Island Avenue condo.

Causeways Division Chief Mike Bauman explained that the county decided to stop collecting the $24 because of ongoing  litigation over the fee.

The Venetian was originally built by a private developer, and the legal agreement transferring the roadway and bridges to the county included language that required it be free to property owners on the Venetian islands.

“We’ve been advised to stop charging the $24,” Bauman explained in an email last week. “I cannot say anything about that because of the litigation. I am seeking further direction on what to do about those that have paid.”

A week later, the direction appears to be: Come back and pay up.

Neifeld got a call from the Causeways office Tuesday afternoon telling him he had to come back and pay the fee. “So much for the free ride,” he said.

Bauman confirmed the fee is again being collected, but would only say: “We are required to follow implementing orders.”

The now-cancelled waiver did not apply to renters on the Venetian Islands, or people who use the C-Pass transponders and work on one of the islands. They pay $90 annual for unlimited trips across the causeway.

The Venetian is supposed to switch to  SunPass starting this summer, though that is likely to be delayed because of the Venetian west bridge construction.

Venetian property owners’ SunPass devices will be coded so they are not charged tolls for passing through the Venetian toll booths.

Miami Beach Commission to discuss Venetian bus service today

Miami-Dade Transit resumed limited bus service between Miami and Miami Beach over the Venetian Causeway on Monday, but the small buses only operate during a 7 to 9:30 a.m. and 2 to 5:40 p.m. time frame.

And the South Beach Local no longer stops on Belle Isle.

Miami Beach city commissioners are scheduled to discuss the resumption of local bus service to Belle Isle at 5 p.m. at their Wednesday meeting.

Belle Isle transit advocate Barbara Cowen –  who collected more than 500 signatures on a petition to push for resumption of service — will be there. She’s urging others to attend.

Miami-Dade has curtailed bus service to the Venetian Islands since structural issues on the bridges connecting the islands caused engineers to impose new weight limits.

Miami-Dade Transit reopens Venetian Causeway bus link to and from mainland Miami

New Venetian A bus route, shared Sunday

New Venetian A bus route, shared Sunday

The folks with Miami-Dade Transit have resumed limited bus service between the mainland Miami at the Omni terminal and the Venetian Causeway, using lighter buses.

The new schedule, posted on the Miami-Dade Transit website Sunday, starts at 7 a.m. and runs every 35 minutes along Venetian Way and ends at the Publix in Sunset Harbour at 20th Street and Bay Road.

The last morning bus will leave Publix at 9:30 a.m.

Service resumes at 2 p.m. from Omni, again, running every 35 minutes. The last bus in the evening leaves Publix at 6:52 p.m. That means there is no public transportation from Belle Isle east after 6:40 p.m. or west after 6:52 p.m., points our Barbara Cowen, the Belle Isle resident who has led the charge to get service restored.

Traveling to any part of South Beach requires connecting with the South Beach Local either at the Publix or at the stop at Purdy and Dade Boulevard.

This is a seven-day morning and afternoon schedule:

OMNI TERM               BAY RD 20ST

      7:00                                  7:12              

      7:35                                 7:47              

      8:10                                  8:22            

      8:45                                  8:57              

      9:20                                  9:32               

—————————————————————————————————————-

      2:00                                  2:12             

      2:35                                  2:47             

      3:10                                  3:22             

      3:45                                  3:57              

      4:20                                  4:32              

—————————————————————————————————————-

      4:55                                  5:07              

      5:30                                  5:42             

      6:05                                  6:17               

      6:40                                  6:52             

 


Activists say upcoming Venetian Causeway bridge closing requires creative solutions to traffic, safety

If you haven’t heard by now, Miami-Dade engineers have concluded that the structural problems with the westernmost Venetian Way bridge to Miami mean it will have to be rebuilt.

They estimate that about six months from now, they will begin demolishing the span between the Miami Herald site and the drawbridge. Demolition and reconstruction is expected to take six to nine months, but who knows how long it will really take. We’ve all been through construction projects before.

Obviously, that will make the drive from one of our islands to the Omni area a longer trip, and much more of a hassle. But several of your Venetian Way neighbors say there is opportunity in adversity.

The folks with the West Avenue Neighborhood Alliance (WAVNA)  and Transit Miami have asked for creative suggestions from residents on how to minimize the traffic impact, as well as provide safe alternatives for bicyclists and pedestrians.

You can email WAVNA at westavenuesobe@gmail.com.

Several Venetian Isle Homeowner Association want to appeal to the Coast Guard to lock down the east drawbridge during the construction, so an emergency path will always be open for fire rescue vehicles. It’s an interesting idea, but Miami-Dade representatives say they have asked for bridge opening restrictions, and getting action from the Coast Guard is a painfully slow process.

And in a letter to Venetian Way Neighborhood Alliance members, President Jack Hartog said the upcoming bridge closing presents a chance to reshape how Venetian residents and the community at large views the historic road between Miami and Miami Beach:

“With this current challenge, however, comes opportunity.  When we renamed ourselves Venetian Way (from Venetian Causeway Neighborhood Alliance) at our 2013 annual meeting, we did so to change the perception of Venetian Way (the official name of the street uniting the Venetian Islands). Venetian Way has always run through our residential neighborhoods; it has always been the most beautiful way to get vistas of Miami; it has always been the best (and often the only way) for pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-auto enthusiasts to get safely from the beach to the city and vice-versa. 

But over the years, despite the McArthur and Julia Tuttle, many have increasingly perceived Venetian Way as at least a secondary, and for many a primary, motorway to get to and from Miami Beach. Our goal, by renaming our organization, has been to change this perception: public policy should treat Venetian Way not as a motorway between the beach and city, but as a safe sanctuary for all pedestrians, bicyclists, all non-auto enthusiasts to visit and take advantage of Venetian Way’s awesome vistas without constant traffic and accompanying congestion inspiring unsafe conditions. 

And here is the point of this email.  During this period of bridge reconstruction of the far west section of Venetian Way, effectively making it a dead end coming from the beach, Venetian Way will be used for only three purposes: (1) the mode for residents to get on and off the islands; (2) the only manner by which governmental (such as emergency, police, fire, public transit and waste removal) and needed private services have access to residents; and (3) a safe and peaceful street for pedestrian (including joggers and skaters), bicyclists, tourists and others to enjoy the inspiring beauty of our islands and their views. These are the core uses of Venetian Way, not as a motorway between the city and the beach, even after the west bridge is repaired.

  So when that section of the bridge closes, blocking all traffic using Venetian Way as a thruway between city and beach, let’s use this period to embed the real nature of Venetian Way in public consciousness and public policy. 

Ending commuter passes, the recent change to the toll structure, appears to be one such step in this correct direction.  As much as we understand the convenience of Venetian Way for those who live near (a mile or so) from either entrance to Venetian Way as a motorway between the beach and the city, the toll structure should treat them like all other non-residents: use Venetian Way for your walking, running, exercising and bicycling, not as a through street.  And when the new west section of Venetian Way is re-opened in the latter half of 2015, and SunPass fully kicks in at the toll booth, signage and other measures should be implemented that direct and encourage through traffic to use streets meant for through traffic, not Venetian Way.