afety and congestion continue to draw Village Council members’ attention to the Rickenbacker Causeway, and Mayor Frank Caplan hopes his participation in a new County-led taskforce will help Key Biscayne’s suggestions gain traction with decision-makers.
The Council brought up causeway issues several times during a Tuesday, April 8, session, and Village Manager John Gilbert and Caplan provided updates on both construction and the taskforce, which was created in response to proposals by County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and held its debut meeting the week before the Council meeting.
Council members also talked about planning for traffic associated with this weekend’s Easter holiday, which brings large numbers of guests to Miami Seaquarium’s annual celebration as well as popular brunches at The Rusty Pelican and The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne Miami.
Gilbert said the approach of the mid-June finish date for work on Bear Cut Bridge and West Bridge and installation of Florida’s SunPass system at the tollbooth doesn’t seem to be easing the crunch. In fact, he remarked, “It’s getting worse as they get closer to completing it.”
Gilbert blamed difficult weekend traffic on drivers not realizing two toll lanes at a time are being closed for the SunPass conversion, and warned the situation will continue until at least mid-June – and possibly into July.
A notice from Miami-Dade County, which is in charge of the construction project, stated the center lanes closed March 31 and would reopen April 11. That would be followed by the closure of two more lanes at a time until all eight lanes are converted.
County officials said the work involves demolishing the existing lane separator and resurfacing the lanes, and promised six toll lanes will be open at all times.
Meanwhile, on Bear Cut Bridge, nightly lane closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. will continue every night until June 16, leaving just one vehicular lane in each direction.
For more information, residents can visit www.bearcutbridge.com or call 311.
Easter weekend concerns
Local leaders related their own tales of traffic woes at the April 8 meeting.
Council member Mayra Pena Lindsay said when she was stuck recently, she noticed a City of Miami ambulance being forced to cross the median and navigate oncoming traffic to get through the jam. Pena Lindsay said she’s worried the situation will get worse in upcoming weeks, and pointed specifically to this weekend as a concern.
She asked if the County will take steps to ease problems: for example, “When do they just stop collecting tolls? At what point is it a crisis?”
While many Council members expressed skepticism as to whether a waiver of tolls will ever happen – Vice Mayor Michael Davey’s analogy involved Satan and icicles – Gilbert noted the County is planning for the influx of visitors.
“They recognize Easter weekend is a significant weekend out here,” he said, explaining no special events are allowed due to the Seaquarium, Rusty Pelican and Ritz-Carlton traffic. “I’ll find out what their plan is, and if they don’t have a plan, I’ll tell them we’re looking for one.”
The Manager promised to report back to Council members prior to the holiday.
Indeed, the three events in question are something residents should be aware of.
BunnyPalooza 2014 at Seaquarium runs Friday, April 18, to Easter Sunday, April 20, and boasts the largest parade in its nearly 15-year history starting at 12:30 p.m. each day. There are also egg hunts throughout the day, bounce houses, a slide and rock climbing wall and more.
Easter brunch at the Ritz-Carlton includes a variety of fine foods and bottomless Prosecco cocktails and an Easter Bunny-led egg hunt for the kids. There are three seating times on Sunday, April 20: 12:30, 2 and 2:30 p.m.