Venetian Way neighborhood meeting to focus on Sunpass, bridges issues

vwnaThe Venetian Way Neighborhood Alliance holds its annual meeting on April 22, and the switch to Sunpass for the Venetian tolls and needed repairs to bridges top the agenda.

Mike Bauman, who oversees the causeway for Miami-Dade County, will give an overview of what island residents can expect this summer when toll collection becomes entirely automatic through SunPass, and toll-takers no longer collect cash. Bauman recently gave details about those plans to the blog.

And Miami-Dade Public Works will elaborate on the events that led to the west drawbridge closure and planned repairs to the bridges.

Hartog said that though the county has been planning bridge repairs for some time — they’ve been discussed in previous Venetian Way Neighborhood Alliance meetings as well as Belle Isle Residents Association meetings — an incident last month triggered more urgency.

On March 18, Hartog said, a Metrobus got its tire stuck in a pothole on the westernmost bridge. That led to the patchwork of asphalt and metal that was set in place during the last several weeks, and Wednesday night’s sudden closure for repairs.

By the way, the county heard loud and clear from residents that they deserved more than a day’s notice of the closure plan.

“Thirty hours ahead is just not enough,” Hartog said, noting that some residents don’t open their email immediately. Days would have been more appropriate notice than hours.

The county has “learned their lesson, I hope” on communicating better, he said.

In addition to Bauman, Miami-Dade County engineer Tony Cotarela is expected to speak at the meeting, which happens April 22 at 7 p.m. at 1000 Venetian Way on Biscayne Island.

If you are interested in joining the alliance, here you go. ,Membership form 2014.doc

 

 

There will also be a discussion of security concerns (there have been more burglaries on DiLido in the last week) and beautification efforts on the islands.

Plan for a Venetian bridge closure — and it may last two nights

This may change your driving direction tonight:

With scant warning, Miami-Dade County Public Works belatedly announced the west Venetian Causeway drawbridge — the one between the mainland and Biscayne Island — will be closed Wednesday night and possibly Thursday night.

The closure will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday and last until 6 a.m. Thursday. It might be repeated on the same schedule, beginning Thursday evening.

The county gave the news to homeowners groups Tuesday afternoon:

Beginning on Wednesday, April 9, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., the West Venetian Bascule Bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic while crews install metal plates along the lanes of traffic.  The areas on the roadway to be plated have been identified as having deterioration.  It may be necessary to close the bridge again on Thursday, April 10 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. depending on the progress of Wednesday evening’s work activities.

There will be more work on the bridge in coming months, the county said.

It you need to get to the mainland during those hours, you’ll have to use the MacArthur or Julia Tuttle causeways.

What Venetian residents need to know about SunPass and our causeway

If you live on one of the Venetian Way islands, you’ve probably received the renewal application for your annual causeway pass. Each spring, property owners can pay $24 a year to renew their C-Pass transponder, and can cross the causeway toll booth all year for free.

You’ve probably heard that at some point this summer, the C-Pass devices will be replaced by SunPass. That will mean changes in how the causeway operates.

Your Belle Isle Blog spoke with Miami-Dade County Causeways Division Chief Mike Bauman about the timetable for the change, and what it will mean to Venetian Isle residents.

Q. When will the switch to SunPass take place? What will C-Pass holders be required to do?

Bauman: We are on track for the summer, though I cannot nail down a precise date. That is dictated by the Turnpike, which oversees SunPass. When we have a firm date, C-Pass holders will be given plenty of time to buy a SunPass device or have a device they already own programmed to enable them to pass through the toll plaza toll free.

For now, Venetian Island property owners should renew their C-user agreements as they have in past years.

Q. When the change takes place, will we be able to do it by mail or will we have to go the the tollbooth building on the causeway?

Bauman: We recognize it is a chore to come in and renew. We’d like to streamline that process. Back in 2005, after the toll plaza was rebuilt, we came out to the buildings on Belle Isle and held a meeting for island homeowners. We may try to do that again. People will have plenty of notice.

Q. We’ve heard that there will no longer be toll booth operators or toll arms at the toll booth on Biscayne Isle. Is that true?

Bauman: Yes. The toll plaza itself will remain in place. But there will no longer be any cash collected at any of the lanes. There will be one or two lanes open in each direction at all times. It will be free-flowing traffic. It is all electronic. No one needs to stop. Drivers will slow to a safe speed, but will not have to stop.

Q. Do you expect that traffic will still back up in the eastbound direction, as frequently happens at busy times?

Bauman: This change will eliminate those backups. There will be no need for cars to stop at the toll plaza.

Q. Some residents worry that the change will lead to more traffic and speeding on Venetian Way. Do you expect that?

Bauman: We don’t.  The speed limit will still be 25 mph. We will be installing speed feedback signs on causeway, to warn people if they are exceeding the limit, and that is coming soon….The narrowness of the lanes at toll plaza causes people to slow down. So does the narrowness of the lanes on the islands.

Q. Why not leave all three tolls lanes open in each direction?

Bauman: There is no reason for more than two. Because cars won’t have to stop and pay, two lanes will be enough to accommodate the flow of traffic. Three lanes would lead to cars jockeying to get in front of each other when the road narrows.

Q. Is it possible to have variable toll rates on the causeway to discourage its use during busy times?

Bauman: Unfortunately, that won’t work on the Venetian. Imagine if the bridge goes up and there is no traffic doing through. That would cause a toll increase, but not because of the traffic volume. Variable tolling responds to congestion, so that wouldn’t work.

Other times, there might be additional traffic because there is an accident on the MacArthur Causeway and traffic is diverted. Then we’d be penalizing them for getting into a traffic jam.

Q. Could the toll be higher?

Bauman: Those decision are always ultimately made by county commissioners and may be recommended by staff.

Q. For many years, people who were not Venetian Causeway property owners were allowed to by C-Pass transponders for $90 a year. Is that still the case?

Bauman: As of April 1 of this year, you will need to be a Venetian Isles renter or an employee in a an island location to buy to those passes. Others will not be allowed to purchase the $90 pass. (this corrects an earlier version of this post, which said the $90 passes would be eliminated entirely).

Q. We’ve heard that the $24 annual fee for property owners may be eliminated, because the causeway was originally built by a private developer, and the legal agreement transferring it to the county required it be free to property owners. Is it possible the $24 annual administrative fee will be eliminated?

Bauman: That is under discussion at various levels of the county, with public works and the county attorney’s office.

Q. Any advice for Venetian homeowners?

Bauman: Just to advise people that everyone will be required to have a SunPass to have the annual plan. You need to have proof you own property on the causeway, and it helps if the car you are registering has the address of your property.

Towering highrise proposed for West Avenue

Rendering of proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

Rendering of earlier proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

Remember developer Russell Galbut’s plans for 600 Alton Road?

In early 2013, the developer had a series of community meetings for a proposal to use the property — between West Avenue and Alton Road and Fifth and Seventh streets including the old (and abandoned) South Shore Hospital building — as a large rental-retail commercial project.

He got some neighborhood buy in.

In summary, the project called for 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor, 444 apartments, 1,073 parking spaces below ground. A new seven-story building was to be built on the 500 block of Alton Road, and a five-story building on the 600 block. The South Shore Hospital building, 10 stories, would be rehabbed and included.

That was the tallest part of the project.

Fast-forward a year. Tonight, Galbut’s Crescent Heights company is teaming with Jorge Perez’s Related Companies to pitch the neighborhood on a 50-story tower on the site.

Belle Isle Blog believes it would be the tallest building on Miami Beach — or at least the one with the most floors (Green and Blue Diamond have those triangles on top of their 44 floors, rising to 559 feet).

The meeting happens at 6:30 p.m. at the Related South Beach Sales Center, 91 Collins Avenue.

There is a a model of the tower on display from all day today at that center.

Happy Monday, Belle Isle!

Another Belle Isle sunrise -- from Sunset Harbour

Another Belle Isle sunrise — from Sunset Harbour

As the sun rises, let’s hope for a great week. Despite the traffic, the construction, the this and that.

Remember, we do live in paradise.

Belle Isle resident leads the fight against Miami Beach water pollution

Dave Doebler

Dave Doebler

There’s a great profile in today’s Miami Herald of Belle Isle resident David Doebler, who has devoted amazing energy to cleaning debris from Miami Beach’s waterways to keep them — and the city drainage system — clean.

Doebler already has received the key to the city from Miami Beach, and his pesonal crusade has led the Beach to look into cleaning the drains more frequently.

He also put together two Slide Share presentations on all the bad stuff he found in Beach waterways.

Take a look.

Alton Road construction promises a big southbound squeeze all on Thursday

The city of Miami Beach says southbound Alton Road will be reduced to one lane and detoured between 19th and 20th streets from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.

That’s the area south of Michigan near Sunset Harbour. It could even more seriously slow the southbound drive on Alton toward Sunset Harbour — a pretty tough slog aready.

Be prepared.