The twelve iconic bridges linking Miami and Miami Beach to the six manmade islands in Biscayne Bay are functional obsolete and structurally deficient. While engineer recommend replacing the bridges, local residents and historic preservation groups want the bridges rehabilitated. What is the most effective solution?
When the Florida Department of Transportation (FLDOT) officials announced the closure of the Venetian Causeway’s western drawbridge for emergency repairs, the debate about whether to replace or restore the roadway’s twelve bridges came back into public consciousness. Engineers who recently inspected the historic bridges linking the six manmade islands in Biscayne Bay with Miami Beach and Miami as structurally deficient, despite the fact the spans underwent extensive rehabilitation in the late 1990’s and additional work in 2011. The FLDOT is currently one year into conducting a three-year, $2.87 million study to determine the best way to address the deteriorating concrete piers and the corroding steel support structures of the spans.
The Argument for Preservation and Restoration
On one side of the debate are residents who want to preserve the charm of the bridges that serve pedestrians and cyclists as well as vehicle traffic. Preservation groups express concern that replacing these bridges, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by Miami Beach and Miami as historic landmarks, may lead to the loss of these designations. In addition, closure of the bridges during the estimated six-year, $10 million construction project will inconvenience the thousand plus people who live in the upscale Venetian Islands neighborhoods. Furthermore, raising the height of the bridges means extending the length of the bridges, so they encroach into residential areas and limit access to many of the tiny spoil islands near the existing spans.
The Counter Argument in Favor of Replacement
Engineers recommend replacing the bridges with higher spans to avoid the corrosive effects of saltwater exposure, especially since many are not above the flood level. In fact, the eastern drawbridge runs a flood risk during astronomical or king tides. They also advise that rehabilitation and preservation work will cost more money and led to more traffic disruption, long term. To address concerns about the loss of historic bridges, engineers state that the replacements can mimic the style of the historic bridges while maintaining the multipurpose function of the current spans.
The Resolution: Unknown
Since the final FLDOT report is not due until 2017, both sides of the debate have plenty of time to develop a solution to the decaying Venetian Bridges. Even when transportation authorities reach their decision, they still need to secure funding for the project, especially since they will lose toll revenue with bridge closures. FLDOT anticipates any full replacement or rehabilitation of the Venetian Bridges will not start until 2020, at the earliest.
What solutions do you recommend to remediate the structural deficiencies of the Venetian Bridges?