Now that construction has resumed on the Belle Isle drainage project in front of the Grand Venetian, 10 Venetian Way, we have active construction and barricades on every island between mainland Miami and Miami Beach except Biscayne.
Daytime driving on the Venetian Causeway is an exercise in patience and precision, with drivers, bikers, runners and Miami-Dade Transit buses jostling along a tightrope of concrete barriers on the 2.6-mile trek.
On Tuesday at lunchtime, two stretches of causeway were reduced to one lane, creating backups at Belle Isle and at San Marino Island. It’s a situation that likely will continue until January, 2012, when a series of projects should (hopefully) conclude.
Here’s an update on the projects and some coping suggestions for Venetian Island residents:
— The Belle Isle drainage project, which started Oct. 25, but has been delayed for months due to underground surprises at the base of the bridge, should be finished by the end of May. For the next couple of weeks, expect weekday delays for workers and inconveniences for walkers and bikers.
— The roadwork (and storm drain construction) on the north side of Rivo Alto, DiLido, San Marino and San Marco islands will result eventually in better island drainage and six-foot-wide sidewalks and new curbs and gutters on that side of the causeway. That’s the good news. But once the road reconstruction and lighting on the north side of the islands is complete, the construction — and the barricades — will shift to the south side of those islands for similar work.
— Work on the Venetian Island Streetscape project will begin later this year, and will mean construction on all of the side streets on Rivo Alto, DiLido and San Marco. That work will have little impact on causeway traffic, but will be disruptive to island residents. It will result in wider sidewalks, new landscaping and lighting on all the islands. It also will mean many homeowners will lose landscaping and fencing they have constructed within the public right-of-way along the street.
— On Belle Isle, work will begin later this year to replace street lights and traffic signals. The street lights will be 15-foot decorative poles, similar in style to those on the Venetian Causeway bridges.
— In the last week, the county installed new yellow “Share the Road” signs, highlighting the conflicts between of cars and bikes on the causeway.
At last week’s Venetian Island Homeowners Association meeting, some residents complained about the hazard of bikers crowding into more narrow space along the causeway. One wanted police to ticket bikers “who ride three abreast” while crossing the causeway.
But cyclists have the same rights to the roadway as cars, Miami Beach Police Captain Greg Butler told homeowners. “They are entitled to the lane,” said Butler, who oversees the middle district of Miami Beach, from 17th to 63rd streets, including the Venetian Causeway.
Bicyclists could be ticketed for failing to obey traffic lights — they have to observe the same rules as cars –but that seldom happens, Butler said.
His advice: Go slow. Be patient. It’s a short trip.