The Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Miami Beach hold another public meeting Tuesday on the proposal to build a West Avenue bridge over the Collins Canal.
Sentiment in the neighborhoods around the West Avenue path — from Belle Isle and Venetian Islands to Sunset Harbour, lower West Avenue and North Bay Road — is divided.
“One neighborhood’s solution becomes another neighborhood’s problem,” said Gayle Durham, of the West Avenue Neighborhood Association, which represents West Avenue residents south of Lincoln Road and opposes the bridge.
The engineers studying bridge options say there are several, ranging from building no bridge at all to a bridge with two traffic lanes in each direction and bike lanes and sidewalks.
The city and the FDOT have held several neighborhood meetings, as well as “stakeholder” meetings with businesses in the area. Support among businesses is much clearer and for good reason — as Sunset Harbour becomes a bigger destination, with many more businesses soon to come with the new city parking garage, they want the neighborhood to be easier to reach.
The Belle Isle Residents Association has come out in support of the bridge that supports pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle access, says BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer.
“Recent development in Sunset Harbour has caused traffic patterns and increased volume that hinders traffic flow in that neighborhood as well as on Venetian Way and 17th Street, main thoroughfares in the area,” he said in a note to Belle Isle residents. “Additional development is already approved in the area and the City will be relocating well over 100 city vehicles to the garage currently under construction, adding to the gridlock. In addition, there is currently no easy way for pedestrians, bicycle and automobile traffic to access the neighborhood from the south.”
In Sunset Harbour, residents certainly disagree. Some, in the highrise condos, think the new bridge will shift traffic from Purdy to West Avenue, and that will be better for the neighborhood.
And a goal of the bridge is to smooth out traffic on Alton Road, though some residents dispute how well that will work.
“According to the city’s West Ave Bridge Traffic Report, a bridge will increase traffic on West Avenue by 10 to 25 percent, while alleviating traffic on Alton Rd by 10 percent,” Durham said said.
Others worry it will flood the entire neighborhood with traffic, and should not be built. This is a theme of Sunset Harbour townhouse residents, who live where West Avenue dead-ends near Publix.
That’s the opinion of Marilyn Freundlich, a townhouse resident who emailed a group of neighborhood activists warning the bridge will make Sunset Harbour a destination, and the next thing you know, you’ll have a Home Depot at your doorstep.
“The disadvantages to having a bridge outweigh the advantages. For example, the bridge will be used by people who have no business coming into Sunset Harbour just to bypass the traffic on Alton Road. They will cross the bridge, go through our entire neighborhood bringing traffic, congestion, pollution and noise, and exit on 20th Street East to join Alton Road, or worse, continue on South Bay Road and join Alton Road at the Mount Sinai Bridge, also intruding into that strictly residential neighborhood.”
Some North Bay Road residents have said they support the bridge — if access to North Bay Road is limited from the south, so it doesn’t become an Alton Road bypass as well.
Residents in the Lincoln-West Residents Association also worry about the bridge turning West Avenue into a speedway — especially at the corner of West Avenue and 17th Street.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. (formal presentation at 6:15 p.m.) at the Miami Beach Regional Library, 227 22 St.
What do you think about the bridge? Post your comments.