From the Venetian Causeway, you can’t really see the activity on the south side of Watson Island on the MacArthur Causeway — the construction workers and equipment behind chain link fences that mark the start of the massive, $1 billion Port of Miami Tunnel project.
But residents and regular users of the Venetian Causeway worry that the impact of the paving and digging and drilling will shift traffic to the narrow, historic Venetian — and change the quality of life on a toll road known more for runners and bikers than traffic jams. And some believe the construction is just the beginning of the trouble on the Venetian.
Venetian residents will have a chance to share those concerns Thursday night with state and county road officials regarding the tunnel construction. There will be representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County Public Works (and causeway overseers), and the cities of Miami Beach and Miami.
The meeting happens at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Botanical Gardens near the Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Dr. It’s same place Belle Isle residents go for their voting precinct.
The meeting will involve the impact of the tunnel construction, as well as the county and Miami Beach streetscape projects planned for Venetian Way.
The tunnel is designed to keep trucks heading to and from the port from clogging downtown Miami streets. Instead, it will give them a path under Government Cut to Watson Island and I-95 and the MacArthur. Some island residents fear once it is finished sometime in 2014, trucks from the tunnel will make the MacArthur will be more congested than ever, permanently shifting some South Beach commuters to the Venetian Causeway as an alternative. Here’s a recent Miami Herald story on the project, but note it’s focused on the construction and impact on downtown, not the Venetian.
“How are we going to keep the Venetian from becoming the main access route to South Beach?” homeowner Michael Fryd asked in a recent letter to homeowners.
“The short-term problems during construction will be nothing compared to the long-term headaches,” Fryd said. “Raising the toll will be difficult. As much as we want the toll raised, South Beach businesses will want it eliminated. They need their customers to be able to get to South Beach. I suspect that FDOT will claim that traffic won’t be a problem…”
Jack Hartog, the president of the Venetian Causeway Neighborhood Alliance, said the neighborhood group believes the FDOT, the county and the city should view Venetian Way as “an historic treasure that attracts pedestrians and bike riders, not a major freeway.” In a letter to homeowners, he said key areas of focus are:
— Planning for traffic and security
— Enforcing causeway weight restrictions
— Enforcing the causeway speeding limit
— Enforcing no fishing rules ( a particular problem on the Miami side of the Causeway)
— Should drawbridge schedules be changed construction?
— Should tolls be raised to support the increased maintenance that will be required once the Causeway Streetscape project is complete?