Tag Archives: Venetian Causeway

When Venetian-to-Miami link closes, at least we’ll be able to turn right on West Avenue

We’re all bracing for the months of inconvenience that start Monday when the westernmost span on Venetian Way closes for reconstruction.

But we heard some decent news today from the Florida Department of Transportation: They plan to partially open the 17th Street bridge on Monday, so Venetian Isle residents can turn right on to West Avenue as we make our way south to the MacArthur Causeway.

According to FDOT spokeswoman Heather Leslie, “one eastbound and one westbound lane will reopen on 17 Street between Dade Boulevard and West Avenue.

“The contractor will continue underground drainage, water main and sanitary sewer operations within the existing work zone on West Avenue between Lincoln Road and 17 Street. 17 between Alton Court and West Avenue will be closed for all pedestrian traffic.”

The Venetian closure is expected to last about nine months.



Be prepared — Friday’s Critical Mass bike ride will cross Dade Boulevard, Venetian Way

Critical Mass, the massive monthly bike ride, happens Friday night and is sure to shutdown traffic around our islands.

The ride starts at 7:15 p.m. on the mainland, and is expected to reach North Beach (over the 79th Street Causeway) at about 7:45 p.m.

From there, riders will head east to Collins Avenue, south to 23rd Street, and then west on Dade Boulevard to Venetian Way and across the islands to mainland Miami.

Plan on being home before the bike traffic, or travel on foot — or get caught in gridlock.

Miami Beach Commission to discuss Venetian bus service today

Miami-Dade Transit resumed limited bus service between Miami and Miami Beach over the Venetian Causeway on Monday, but the small buses only operate during a 7 to 9:30 a.m. and 2 to 5:40 p.m. time frame.

And the South Beach Local no longer stops on Belle Isle.

Miami Beach city commissioners are scheduled to discuss the resumption of local bus service to Belle Isle at 5 p.m. at their Wednesday meeting.

Belle Isle transit advocate Barbara Cowen —  who collected more than 500 signatures on a petition to push for resumption of service — will be there. She’s urging others to attend.

Miami-Dade has curtailed bus service to the Venetian Islands since structural issues on the bridges connecting the islands caused engineers to impose new weight limits.

A look back at the Miami causeways and shoreline — before The Miami Herald

This postcard shows residences and a hotel on The Herald property

This 1930s postcard shows residences and a hotel on The Herald property

It’s a nostalgic time on the west end of the Venetian Causeway.

The Miami Herald printed its last newspapers  two weeks ago at 1 Herald Plaza, on the mainland between the Venetian and MacArthur causeways.

1939 view of downtown looking west.

1939 view of downtown looking west.

Since then, office and news gathering operations have been moving to the news organization’s new home in Doral.

The final newsroom employees — and few from other departments — are scheduled to finish packing this week and all will be working in Doral by Friday afternoon.

Some time after that — it’s not clear when — property owner Genting plans to tear down The Herald building to make way for its planned resort (no, it won’t be a casino — at least not yet).

The Miami Herald in 2006.

The Miami Herald in 2006.

The Herald’s been on the property for 50 some years. BelleIsleBlog has been trolling eBay again, finding old postcards that provide a view at the bayside property between the Venetian and MacArthur Causeways before The Herald built its offices and printing plant in the early 1960s. The Herald moved to One Herald Plaza from a location on South Miami Avenue in April 1963.

Another view of the Causeways, circa 1939.

Another view of the Causeways, circa 1939.

The postcards show another Miami — when the port was off an undeveloped Watson Island, and the shoreline south of the MacArthur Causeway (then the County Causeway) featured huge oil tanks. Biscayne Island, the first on the way east on the Venetian Causeway, was barren, used as a landing strip.

The postcard above shows the Boulevard Shops (originally the Shrine Building when buit in 1930) on Biscayne Boulevard — and the Trinity Cathedral to the west of the Venetian Causeway entrance. Both remain, dwarfed by the city that grew up in the next 80-plus years.

Circus elephants cross the Venetian Causeway west drawbridge, with under-construction Herald building in background.

Circus elephants cross the Venetian Causeway drawbridge, in 1960, with  Herald building property in background.

Construction on The Herald building began in 1961, and finished with the building opening on April 5, 1963.

Toll delay: SunPass will come to the Venetian Causeway by 2014

A year ago, Mike Bauman, who heads Miami-Dade County’s Causeway Division, said the Venetian Causeway toll collection would be converted to SunPass by fall of 2012.

This week, Belle Isle residents will learn why that hasn’t happened — along with a new goal of making the switch by the end of 2013.

Bauman, whose responsibilities include overseeing the Venetian and Rickenbacker causeways, said In January 2012 that he expected the Rickenbacker to convert to SunPass by June or July 2012, and that the Venetian would convert in the fall.

But he tells El Nuevo Herald’s Alfonso Chardy that contractor issues and efforts by Florida’s toll agencies to centralize back office billing operations caused the delays.

There are other details to be worked out. The county has said it wants to convert the Rickenbacker to an all-electronic toll system; on the Venetian, island residents have been told a cash lane will remain even after the switch to SunPass.

When the Venetian opened, tolls cost a dime.

When the Venetian opened, tolls cost a dime.

Island residents will still be able to buy an annual $24 pass to use the causeway (it will be part of the SunPass programming), and commuters can pay $90 for annual use. But there is concern on the Venetian Islands that allowing everyone to pass through the toll with an electronic device would lead to more speeding on the residential causeway.

Bicycle activists also oppose removing the toll booths, which they said help hold down speeds on the causeways.

At a Venetian Islands Homeowner Association meeting last month, VIHA president Juergen Brendel asked Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora if tolls for non-residents should be raised to $3 to discourage traffic. Gongora said that was a Miami-Dade County decision. The current cash toll is $1.50.

It’s a long way from the days when the causeway opened, and the privately-owned bridge actually advertised to attract drivers to pay the toll for a shorter crossing to Miami Beach.

The SunPass issue is among the items to be discussed at Wednesday’s Belle Isle Residents Association meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. (Jan. 16) at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

With Venetian Causeway smoothed out, now comes Isles streetscape

So, finally, the Venetian Causeway is a nice smooth ride.

There is detail work to finish — medians aren’t done, not all the lights work, etc…. — but you can drive the road without wrecking your car suspension and jog the causeway without risking your life. You can tell that when it’s all complete, it’s going to look good.

And with that project reaching conclusion, the Streetscape work on Rivo Alto, DiLido and San Marino islands comes next. The good news — really good news — is the money is in place.

When the city of Miami Beach passed its budget on Sept. 27, it included $2.1 million to cover a shortfall in the Streetscape project.n  As a result, the project is expected to move forward. Bids are due on Oct. 31.

“Finally, it looks like the end of this year or early next year will see a ‘spade in the ground’ for a long-awaited Venetian Islands Streetscape Project,” Venetian Islands Homeowner Association president Jürgen Brendel said in an email to homeowners this week.

City Commissioner Deede Weithorn told homeowners during a meeting in June that she would get the additional $2.1 million included in the Miami Beach budget.

After the Sept. 27 vote, she told homeowners: “we are one step closer to bringing these much needed improvements to fruition.”

Venetian Causeway completion timetable slides to October

Five weeks ago, we reported that Miami-Dade County hoped to finish the Venetian Causeway construction project by mid-September.

The county now says the likely completion date is late October.

Why more delay in a project already nine months behind schedule?

Tropical Storm (and later hurricane) Isaac brought work to a halt. There were more suprises with underground utilities. We’ll let Miami-Dade spokeswoman Gayle Love give details:

“The Contractor has experienced further weather-related delays, as well as delays caused by the installation of the outfalls on Rivo Alto and San Marco, where unforeseen conflicts found during excavation led to the redesign of the configuration for the outfalls.  Additional delays were experienced during coordination with the City of Miami Beach for the connection of the irrigation meters to the water distribution lines in Belle Island, Rivo Alto, Di Lido and San Marino.”

Remember that workers spent days clearing equipment and debris just before Isaac moved through. Then Miami Beach Public Works had to deal with the water main break on Belle Isle on Venetian Way just west of Island Avenue.

Of course, once the main causeway work is done, construction will continue on the individual islands. And the city of Miami is building a storm-water pump stations and piping on San Marco Island, and Miami-Dade Water and Sewer is installing water mains on Biscayne Island.

Seems like it never ends.

A 1920s postcard shows lush Belle Isle, early Rivo Alto, Fisher’s Flamingo Hotel

A 1920s view of Belle Isle facing east.

Belle Isle is the only “natural” island on the Venetian Causeway. We know the other Venetian Islands — Rivo Alto, DiLido, San Marino, San Marco and Biscayne — were dredged, filled and linked with the roadway between 1923 and 1926.

Our latest postcard find (thanks, eBay!) shows Rivo Alto in the foreground, Belle Isle, and the western edge of Miami Beach with Carl Fisher’s classic Flamingo Hotel.

You can see that most of Rivo Alto is open space, though the streets and a couple of homes have been built.

This photo shows the Joseph Adams and J.C. Penney estates.

Compare the postcard view to the above early 1930s photo of Belle Isle, taken from the north facing south, which also shows the Flamingo.  This is from the Florida Memory Project, subject of an earlier blog post.

Finally, here’s a 1923 photo from east to west that shows Miami Beach, Belle Isle, and a sandy and vacant Rivo Alto as the only island along the Venetian Causeway path.

!923 photograph shows view to Miami across Venetian Causeway.

Venetian Causeway construction won’t be done til mid September — hopefully

Work undone includes leveling pavement with sidewalks and curbs and finishing medians.

The reconstruction of the historic Venetian Causeway — with wider sidewalks, pink crosswalks, vintage light posts, better drainage and repaving — is eight months behind schedule, and counting.

If you live on the Venetian, you know the route between mainland Miami and Miami Beach has been an obstacle course of lane changes and uneven pavement. You’ve cringed as your car shuddered over uneven crosswalks and elevated manhole covers.

When Venetian homeowners met with the Miami-Dade Public Works officials in late May, the official word was that work would be done by late July, barring surprises and bad weather.

Now, the timetable is mid-September, Miami-Dade County says.

“Weather delays and unexpected conflicts have pushed the substantial completion of the project,” said Francisco Calderon, communications manager for the Miami-Dade Public Works and Waste Management Division.

There is some progress. Landscaping is being installed in some median areas (on Belle Isle, for instance), Calderon said.

“Additionally, some concrete islands and sidewalks are currently under construction, and streetlight activities (installation of conduit and pull boxes) are in progress.”

But there is a fairly substantial list of items to be completed in the next six weeks, the county says, including:

— The irrigation system for the landscaping.

— Final sidewalk and concrete island work.

— Removal of the tall, old metal street lights that are being replaced by the new (old-looking) lights.

— Final layers of asphalt and pavement marking and signs.

— Odds and ends.

Calderon said people should know that some of the ongoing work on Biscayne and San Marco islands in Miami is not being done by the county and is on a different timeline.

“The city of Miami is currently constructing a stormwater pump station and related piping on San Marco Island. Additionally, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department is installing water piping and street lights on North Venetian Dr. in Biscayne Island.”


With Venetian Causeway delays, island streetscape project falls behind

The delays in completing the Venetian Causeway construction project — now expected to be done at the end of July — mean that work on sidewalk, lighting and landscaping upgrades on the Venetian Isles won’t be begin until about November, according to the city of Miami Beach.

The causeway reconstruction project, which includes wider sidewalks, drainage, lighting and crosswalks on the historic route between Miami and Miami Beach, is about seven months behind schedule due to an array of construction problems, ranging from rain delays to difficulties with underground utilities.

The original budget for the Streetscape project for Rivo Alto, DiLido and San Marino isles was $7.8 million. But moving underground water and sewer lines to make way for the Venetian work cost the city about $1 million.

Right now, the county expects to complete the work on the Venetian by the end of July. The city of Miami Beach is planning to invite bids on the island streetscape work on June 1, said Fernando Vazquez, Miami Beach’s director of capital improvements.

Typically, that is a 45-60 day process. If all goes well, the city would follow up with notices to proceed, and work could start sometime around November, Vazquez told homeowners at a meeting last week.

The capital improvement department will ask for another $1 million during the city’s capital improvement budgeting process, which happens in July.

At a meeting with Venetian Causeway Homeowner Association members, Vazquez said he will let VIHA members know when the City Commission meets on the capital money so they can urge that commissioners approve the additional funds.