Just two months ago, hundreds of grinning cyclists gathered at the western end of the Venetian Causeway. They had reason to celebrate: The scenic, historic link between downtown Miami and South Beach was finally reopening after eight months of repairs had left bikers with a Sophie's Choice of the high-speed MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways as their only routes to the Beach.
The party didn't last long. The county confirmed this morning that the Venetian will soon close again for at least 45 days for further repairs.
"That's the approximate plan, though it's dependent on the work," says Ileen Delgado, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade's transportation department.
How exactly could the Venetian need work again so soon after the last shutdown? Well, the eight-month closure, which began last June, addressed a very specific problem: A bus wheel had punched a hole in the westernmost bridge on the causeway, so the drawbridge had to be replaced.
But the entirety of the historic causeway is actually in rough shape, with the Florida Department of Transportation midway through a $2.8 million study on how to best fix it without choking traffic to South Beach.
And now, it's the easternmost side of the causeway that needs help. The 45-day project, set to begin in September, will allow repairs to the drawbridge between Belle Isle and Rivo Alto Island, as well as to the regular bridge between Sunset Harbour and Belle Isle.
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The project won't be annoying to only cyclists and pedestrians. A $400 million plan to raise the street level and install flood pumps to combat sea-level rise has already left South Beach's notorious traffic even worse than usual, and the eight-month closure of the Venetian Causeway only worsened it.
The latest project is sure to leave the booming Sunset Harbour neighborhood even more difficult to access this fall.
But cyclists will most definitely be screwed. As a New Times cover story revealed this week, Miami remains one of the deadliest cities in America to navigate on two wheels. The Venetian is a rare safe haven, a long stretch with a bike lane and low speed limits for cars. In this route's absence, cyclists have no alternatives but the MacArthur and Tuttle, where vehicles fly by at 60 mph and faster.
Delgado tells New Times that in their repair plans, Miami-Dade County's public works officials will include a recommendation for cyclists, but they're still reviewing options.