Another Julia Tuttle Causeway Death Stumps FHP

Around 8:40 Wednesday evening, not long after sunset, a 51-year-old woman was driving east on the Tuttle Causeway in a 2015 Chrysler van, towards Miami Beach. West of Alton Road a man was walking across the highway from south to north. He was hit by the Chrysler, his body launching until it landed on the shoulder. The driver stayed at the scene. When emergency arrived, the man was pronounced dead.

But as of late yesterday afternoon, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Sanchez says, that's all that's known about the fatal crash. "He has not been identified," Sanchez told New Times. "Apparently he's a homeless guy." 

The collision is currently under investigation, the spokesman said, adding that authorities would now try to cross reference fingerprints taken from the body with existing police records in the hope of finding a match.

But even as questions linger, about the man's identity and the nature of the collision, grave safety concerns linger for Miami's pedestrians and cyclists, especially on the Julia Tuttle Causeway. In late April, a 25-year-old Guatemalan native named Eber Vasquez was killed near the western section of the busy highway when a speeding car swerved into his bicycle from behind. Vasquez, who earned a meager salary yet still sent money back to his young daughter and grandparents, was catapulted into the dark bay below, where divers recovered his body some two hours later.

His tragic death followed a string of Miami cyclist fatalities. The close-knit bicycling community hoped it wouldn't be a harbinger. The low-speed Venetian Causeway, long the best way for cyclists and pedestrians to cross between Miami and Miami Beach, closed June 1 for a $12.4 million renovation expected to take nine months. Local governments had no plan for the affected pedestrians, committing only to better street sweeping on the MacArthur. 

“Oh my God,” Maria Luisa de Jesus Hoover, a local cycling organizer, told New Times before of the closing. “If the city doesn’t do anything now, it’s going to be a disaster.” 

With so many unanswered questions about Wednesday evening's collision, it's impossible to know, of course, if the death might have been prevented had the low-speed bridge been open or a better pedestrian alternative been in place. But for a city notorious for pedestrian danger, it is, nonetheless, another death on a causeway. 

"I look at it as just another tragedy," said Sanchez, asked about the context of the Venetian closing. "But once again, you have to be very careful... it's basically a highway." 

The Venetian is expected to remain closed until around next March.

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Trevor Bach