At the end of July, the Florida Department of Transportation closed two westbound lanes on the MacArthur Causeway, kicking off a two-year, $12.9 million rehabilitation project on one of the two main links between Miami and Miami Beach. The repairs must take place, FDOT says, because the causeway is dangerously corroded, in large part as a result of years of salt spray from Jet Skis blasting the structure.
For the past seven weeks, Beach commuters have had to either sit through mind-numbing delays while traffic from all directions merged into a single lane, or avoid anywhere within a six-block radius of the heavily policed traffic jam.
Today, more than two weeks after the initially announced end date, one of the causeway's three westbound travel lanes has finally reopened.
Though two westbound lanes are now available to Beach commuters, one lane will remain closed until December, FDOT says. There will also be nighttime two-lane closures from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. throughout the remainder of the project.
At one point, Miami Beach politicians created live feeds from traffic cameras so residents could stay apprised of the traffic situation. The Miami-Dade Commission even voted to suspend westbound tolls on the Venetian Causeway during morning and evening weekday rush hour to mitigate traffic on the MacArthur. At the time, Commissioner Eileen Higgins said, "Folks in South Beach are literally spending an hour to go six blocks."
@MyFDOT_Miami MacArthur causeway construction is dramatically worsening rush hour traffic. Online it states lane closures won’t begin until 9am on weekday, why were lanes closed at 8am for rush hour?? @MiamiBeachNews— Biscane Bae (@PrettyRickyT) July 26, 2018
@MiamiBeachNews MacArthur Causeway entrance construction at 8am on a weekday?? Really???! Thanks for NOT telling us and making us late for work! Couldn’t this kind of work happen overnight and NOT during morning rush hour?— Tom Reimann (@ThomReimann) July 25, 2018
After the westbound repairs are done, at least one lane on the eastbound side of the causeway will be closed for nine months while FDOT replaces the bridge's concrete deck and repairs concrete under the bridge.
"FDOT and contractor accelerated the work schedule to complete additional areas that were identified for bridge full-deck replacement," a press release states. "These repairs [are aimed] to avoid future daytime double-lane closures and minimize traffic impacts during the tourist season."
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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 early this month. "The big impact we have to mitigate is when we close double lanes in each direction."
However bad the traffic, FDOT says it has no option but to make the extensive repairs. Videos of badly rusting supports beneath the causeway show the extent of the damage: