The MacArthur Causeway is dangerously corroded, the Florida Department of Transportation says, in large part from years of salt spray from Jet Skis blasting beneath one of the two main links between downtown Miami and South Beach. FDOT's solution, though, is already leaving Miami Beach politicians and residents fuming.
Beginning today at 10 p.m., two westbound lanes of the MacArthur Causeway will be closed until September 2. The closure is just one of the many headaches to come as a two-year, $12.9 million rehabilitation project gets underway. However necessary the repairs, FDOT has done a terrible job of preparing residents and visitors for the traffic turmoil, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says.
“We’re a barrier island with just a few access points, and for a variety of reasons, if we’re not coordinated, it creates chaos," Gelber said at a city commission meeting last week. “It is disastrous.”
As work began yesterday, commuters were already feeling the pain. Commuters tweeted out videos of miles-long traffic backups without any clear alternatives:
FDOT says it's urging commuters to consider the Venetian Causeway or Julia Tuttle Causeway while work is underway, but many drivers said they had no clear warning of the gridlock to come:
However bad the traffic, FDOT says it has no option but to make the extensive repairs. The agency pointed to photos of badly rusting supports beneath the causeway crossing Biscayne Bay:
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The heavy delays will likely continue at least until the two-lane closure on the bridge ends September 2, Miami Beach officials say. After that, traffic will be slightly less of a nightmare, with only one continuous lane closure, first on the westbound side and then eastbound for the next nine months as the FDOT works to replace the bridge's concrete deck and repair concrete elements under the bridge.
But more double-lane closures might occur anytime if engineers and construction workers need the space, FDOT warns.
"I think when we're working behind the barrier wall and only have one lane closed, your traffic will be manageable," FDOT project engineer John Bolton said at the commission meeting last week. "The big impact we have to mitigate is when we close double lanes in each direction."