Work on the slow-moving, back-jarring, pothole-filled obstacle course we know as the Venetian Causeway is a good six months behind schedule, and th e current phase won’t finish the end of June, Belle Isle residents learned Wednesday night.
And the construction happening right now — a scramble of road surfacing and barrier moving — is preparation to make the Venetian safe for the 25,000 runners who will cross it during the ING Miami Marathon on Jan. 29.
“They are cleaning up for the ING Marathon,” said Richard Saltrick, a city of Miami Beach Public Works Department engineer who briefed the Belle Isle Residents Association on progress on the myriad road and bridge projects on and near the island. “They are doing milling and surfacing on DiLido and Rivo Alto, safe-ing up” for the race.
The causeway construction was supposed to be complete by now — well before the annual marathon needed a clear path.
“It’s a mess,” acknowledged Whitney Murphy, event manager for US Road Sports, which stages the annual race. Her organization expects a record 25,000 runners for this year’s marathon and half-marathon, about 3,000 more than last year. No matter the distance, all runners cross the Venetian.
“There is a lot of construction,” she said, and joked: “I’m getting gray hair at 26.” She said the marathon organizers are “working with the county and the city and they are going to smooth out the road for the runners and wheel chairs.”
Saltrick said Miami Beach has been told current construction on the Venetian — a Miami-Dade Public Works project that includes wider sidewalks and lighting and drainage — should be done by the end of June.
In August, Saltrick said, the city of Miami Beach will begin work on drainage, sidewalk, lighting and drainage projects on the side streets of the Venetian Islands of Rivo Alto, DiLido and San Marino — the so-called Streetscape Project.
An August start of that work allows for the possibility of a little more delay in the current Miami-Dade project, Saltrick said. The Streetscape work will last another year.
And those are just two of many projects in the starting or planning phase that impact Belle Isle and the Venetian Causeway. Residents received updates on several others:
— The mixed-use path along the Collins Canal. Eastbound Dade Boulevard closed past Purdy Avenue on Tuesday as work on this project began. It will stay closed for less than a month, from the Dade-17th Street split to Alton Road. The detour requires taking 17th Street to Alton.
The overall project — which includes seawall replacement and the construction of a landscaped sidewalk north of the Collins Canal along Dade Boulevard for bikers, runners, walkers and strollers — should be complete by July, Saltrick said.
— The proposed West Avenue Bridge. The city of Miami Beach is studying whether to build a bridge over the Collins Canal that would connect West Avenue behind Epicure with the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. The next neighborhood meeting will be in February, Saltrick said. If the Miami Beach City Commission decides to build a bridge, it would take two to three years of planning and engineering work before construction would begin, he said.
– Reconstruction of the Venetian Causeway bridges. The 12 historic bridges that make up our Venetian Causeway are crumbling in places, and make need extensive repairs or replacement. They were last redone a dozen years ago, after a lengthy battle to ensure their architectural features were preserved.
The Florida Department of Transportation is seeking bids from consultants who will determine the extent of work needed on the bridges, said Herb Frank, a Belle Isle Residents Association board member who attended an FDOT meeting on the bridges on Wednesday. A consultant could be chosen at a follow-up meeting in April. He said the consultant study would take about three years, to actual work is a long way off — if it happens at all.
Residents Association Scott Diffenderfer said the organization is staying on top of the project to make sure whatever eventually happens preserves the historic bridges.