Venetian Causeway Will Close for Months, Then Beach Residents Won't Get Toll Passes

For Miami Beach commuters, the past year has been a migraine-inducing hellscape. While a project aimed at alleviating flooding has left Alton Road hacked to bits, the ongoing construction of the PortMiami tunnel has turned the MacArthur Causeway into a traffic-clogged nightmare (especially this morning, when a Ferrari going more than 100 mph hit an SUV and shut down the causeway). It's about to get worse. County officials have now confirmed the Venetian Causeway will be closed for up to nine months to fix a deteriorating bridge.

Beach residents, meanwhile, were startled to learn this week that when the bridge on this history roadway finally reopens, they'll no longer be allowed to buy discounted commuter passes, which will be available only to Venetian Island residents and workers.

"If you can prove you work on the Venetian Islands or you are a renter, you can still buy a commuter pass," says Gayle Love, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade County Public Works Department. "But all the others who live in the proximity would no longer qualify for that."

Previously, South Beach residents who regularly took the Venetian to work downtown could buy annual passes for around $90 -- escaping the traffic in the toll booths and saving significant money on a daily commute that would otherwise rack up a $1.75 toll for every trip.

But that all changed with new regulations that went into effect April 1 in conjunction with switching the toll booths to the SunPass system.

The new rules are a moot point for the moment, as commuters have a whole other issue to deal with thanks to the Venetian's imminent closure.

The problems arose last month when a city bus got stuck on the bridge near the old Miami Herald building. Engineers later discovered that a portion of the bridge had fallen loose and a whopping 730-foot segment would need to be replaced.

That'll take six to nine months. In the meantime, no one -- including pedestrians and cyclists -- will be able to use the bridge.

"They're going to have to completely demolish and replace that section of the bridge, so it's going to be closed to everyone," Love says.

The only mild silver lining here is that the PortMiami tunnel is on schedule to open next month, which could alleviate some of the construction-related woes on I-395.

The Alton Road project, meanwhile, is ahead of schedule -- but still won't be finished until the end of this year.

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