On March 15 a Miami-Dade metrobus, travelling east across the Venetian Causeway near the old Miami Herald building, suddenly got stuck. The weight from the bus had opened a hole in the structure, and engineers later discovered that a portion of the bridge had fallen loose.
A month later, in the wake of the public transit disaster, county officials issued a nightmare confirmation for commuters: Beginning later this fall, the bridge will be closed completely so workers could replace the westernmost section, a process expected to take up to nine months.
But the section overhaul may not be the only change that's coming to the 89-year-old causeway, the oldest in Florida. At a public meeting last night at the Miami Beach Regional Library, Florida Department of Transportation officials announced they're carrying out an extensive study of the entire causeway after an inspection flagged 10 of the Venetian's 12 bridges as "functionally obsolete."
"These bridges are designed to last 50 years or so," said Dat Huynh, the FDOT project manager, the Miami Herald reported. "The Venetian is well past its service life."
Officials said they expected the study to take up to three years, and that in assessing any engineering changes they would also consider environmental concerns and the causeway's historic designation--a primary focus for residents.
"My concern is that you maintain the current character of one-lane each way," said Michael Frye, a member of the Venetian Island Homeowners Association, the Herald reported. "The look and feel."
Also according to the Herald, a group of residents at the meeting rallied for a name change more representative of the structure's smaller, more intimate feel--Venetian Way instead of Venetian Causeway.
"This should be a way," resident Mark White said. "It has been treated like a causeway."
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FDOT plans workshops for the next two summers to provide updates on the project. A PDF version of the plan can be accessed at fdotmiamidade.com.