MacArthur Causeway Construction: One Down, Three to Go

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

MacArthur Causeway Construction: One Down, Three to Go:

City trying to alleviate pain of double lane closures

Mayor Dan Gelber wants us all to know he feels our pain as we cope with the double lane closure on the MacArthur Causeway. The new traffic pattern which began this week is expected to last until September 2.
“The closure has been extremely disruptive and for many of our residents – especially those in South Beach – it has been a real hardship. Some commuters have experienced trips in excess of an hour across the Causeway,” Gelber acknowledged in an email to residents Friday evening.
“Some residents have reached out concerned that they don’t see any workers on the Bridge. The work is actually going on under the Bridge – FDOT won’t allow traffic above the Bridge also due to safety concerns.”
“While this is a State road project, our City officials are doing what we can to mitigage the dysfunction that so many are experiencing,” he wrote.

Gelber said he spoke with FDOT District Six Secretary Jim Wolfe and requested additional off-duty law enforcement support for the project. “I am pleased to report that Secretary Wolfe agreed to my request and FDOT will be funding an additional 11 officers to help manage the traffic situation.”
Gelber is also working with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez “to determine the feasibvility of suspending the tolls for non-commercial vehicles on the Venetian Causeway until September 2nd. The Venetian is a County road and the City of Miami Beach does not have the authority to lift the tolls,” he wrote.
“Mayor Gimenez understands the hardship this issue has created and wants to determine the best solution so vehicular traffic can flow more smoothly as an outlet for the congestion caused by the State project.”
Noting a significant communications effort, Gelber wrote, “Ultimately we hope that drivers will modify their travel times and/or routes to help reduce some of the bottleneck. While we will try to mitigate the disruption, and continue to urge the State to accelerate the construction, it is impossible to eliminate it.”
“I will continue to engage with the State and County and monitor the situation closely so that we adjust our plan as needed. I also welcome your feedback and comments on how we can improve our approach.” He asked residents who wished to contact him to email him at He has requested you include the time and place of any issues “to help better inform our response.”
“Thanks for your patience,” he concluded. “I am sorry as we work through this situation together.”
Throughout the week, the reports from the Causeways have been they’re moving fine. The problem is the double lane closures are westbound, meaning traffic backs up into the City of Miami Beach.
Motorists reported heavy traffic on all roads heading toward the MacArthur on the first day. Then it seemed everyone headed the other direction to the Venetian Causeway the next day, backing up the roads heading in that direction. The photo above is of West Avenue preparing to turn onto the Venetian. Horns blared, tempers flared, and social media has been full of pleas to the City and FDOT to do something.
For his part, the FDOT contractor last week warned us. “It’s gonna be a lot of pain,” John Bolton told City Commissioners who called him in after a rough start to the two-year construction project, though we’re told the lane closures will only last nine months as the result of an expedited schedule.

Earlier in the day we asked City Communications Director Tonya Daniels for an assessment of week one and what is being done to help us all survive the pain:
First, she wrote in an email, “The City of Miami Beach recognizes the impact the FDOT project has on our residents. As such, we are doing everything in our power to work with FDOT to ease traffic flow and alleviate congestion.”
The City Transportation Department continues to adjust traffic light signal timing along the Venetian Causeway and Alton Road, “Two roads which, by observation, have been mostly congested,” Daniels noted.
Miami Beach Police are working to alleviate “block the box” issues, the one thing Chief Dan Oates said last week has been the “big challenge … If that happens you have complete gridlock.”
Daniels added, “We are also working with the County and the State to get the tolls lifted on the Venetian Causeway during this time.” Cost was one issue motorists mentioned when RE:MiamiBeach asked why fewer of them were taking the Venetian. (Tolls for two axle vehicles are $2.25 via SunPass and $3.00 toll by plate each way.)
“The traffic is manageable with modest delays getting on to the MacArthur until about 2 p.m. each day. By 3 p.m., we begin to see significant delays on Alton Road and 5th Street as well as the adjoining neighborhoods.  The traffic gets very congested during evening rush hour and doesn’t lighten up until 7:30 p.m. or so,” she explained.
“We have observed that some drivers are adjusting and are using the Venetian and the Tuttle to leave the City during evening rush hour. There have been traffic delays on these two arteries as a result. The City will keep working, planning and adjusting until driver behavior adjusts. Again, we are working hard to get the tolls lifted as added encouragement to use the Venetian causeway.”
“Police are deploying significant extra resources and adjusting their staffing as best they can. Officers are posted at 5th and Alton from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Beginning at 3 p.m. there is a surge of additional officers to move traffic along as best they can on 5 Street and on Alton Road. FDOT has agreed to pay for a bulk of police cost during this time. They are paying up to 11 officer positions at an off-duty rate everyday on weekdays and 3 positions on each of the weekend days.”
Daniels passed along two recommendations: “The Police Department is recommending that if drivers want to cross 5th Street, they do so via Alton Road, Meridian Avenue and Washington Avenue.”
“As always, we’re also encouraging residents to text MBTraffic to 888777 for the latest traffic updates.”
What about next week? 
“The Police will keep evaluating traffic conditions and driver behavior and adjusting their deployment accordingly,” she said. “It is hoped that over time, more drivers will choose alternative routes and times of day to commute and that, as a result, there will be some easing of the evening rush hour congestion. However, until the two-lane closure ends, there will continue to be significant traffic delays.” In case you missed it, that’s not until September 2.
The first day of school for Miami-Dade County is August 20. We asked if there are any plans to coordinate traffic patterns with the School District. 
“The Police will work with the School District to do the best we can to accommodate the special demands of the new school year,” Daniels told us. “Police do not expect morning drop off at the schools to be impacted by the bridge issues. In the afternoon, as drivers adjust, the traffic patterns may change. Police will assess conditions through the week of August 6 and make our plans accordingly. Regardless of whatever adjustments we plan, we will be asking parents to plan for extra time each day to arrive and pick up their children.”
Bottom line, it’s still going to be a painful three weeks. Give yourself extra time.
There’s always the option to stay put for a Miami Spice dinner…


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