Editor’s Note This letter was sent to Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Commissioner Raquel Regalado and County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava following last week’s BOCC meeting and shared with Islander News
Re: BCC Agenda Item 11A / Addendum to the RFP for the Rickenbacker and Venetian Causeways
Dear Chairman Diaz, Commissioner Regalado, and Mayor Levine Cava:
On behalf of the Plan Z Consortium, we wish to express our appreciation for the County’s hard work in the issuance of the current, competitive RFP for this transformative public-private partnership, and for the many thoughtful suggestions to potentially improve the RFP process that you shared at the September 29th Sunshine Meeting.
As an initial matter, we wish to address the current proposal to remove the Venetian Causeway from the RFP. We included the Venetian Causeway in our unsolicited proposal because we believed, and continue to believe, that its inclusion benefits the project and the traveling public through greater operational efficiencies and, as a result, lower tolls on both causeways. However, we can confirm that we are able to deliver the benefits requested by the RFP to the Rickenbacker Causeway with or without the inclusion of the Venetian Causeway. The original RFP gave the County the option to remove the Venetian from the project, and we wish to leave no doubt that the project remains a viable project even if the Board does decide to remove the Venetian from the RFP.
Second, we were not surprised to hear all three of you express a desire for the Village of Key Biscayne to have greater insight and input into this important project. Any procurement should give proposers every opportunity to design and deliver a project that best meets the needs of the community. Chairman Diaz correctly pointed out that the County’s Cone of Silence would not ordinarily prevent a proposer from speaking with the Village prior to the submission of its proposal. However, as noted by the County Attorney’s Office in the Sunshine Meeting, this particular RFP strictly prohibits communications with certain “key stakeholders” (including the Village of Key Biscayne). That additional restriction is not required by the County’s Cone of Silence or P3 Ordinance. It is apparent that this “key stakeholder” communications restriction has had unintended, negative consequences, effectively disallowing proposers from seeking valuable input and potential collaboration with the Village of Key Biscayne, the City of Miami, the City of Miami Beach, and FDOT.
The removal of this additional restriction from the RFP would give all proposers a greater opportunity to design and deliver the best possible project for the community.
We were also intrigued by Commissioner Regalado’s suggestion that the RFP could be amended to permit alternative proposals, which could facilitate more creative solutions addressing the needs of the County and the community. We agree with Chairman Diaz and the County Attorney’s Office that it would be problematic to request and consider both P3 proposals and non-P3 proposals (such as design-build or design-bid-build proposals) in the same RFP, which was of course issued under the County’s P3 Ordinance. However, we think that there could be a benefit, as suggested by Commissioner Regalado, to permitting proposers to provide both a base P3 proposal as well as one or more alternative P3 proposals in their responses to the RFP. The alternatives could include different design concepts or tolling structures, for example, and could afford the County additional options as it decides how to proceed with this project.
Finally, it is disheartening to witness the false narrative that the current RFP process lacks transparency and that the details of the project are in some way a secret. Over the last six years before the issuance of the RFP, we have held numerous meetings with Village of Key Biscayne elected officials to discuss the critically needed improvements to the Rickenbacker. Furthermore, not only has the media covered these discussions in various articles, but we have shared the vision and details of the plan far and wide on a public website. Now, after years of discussion, it is disingenuous for the Village of Key Biscayne to try to stop a public RFP process that will finally provide the critically needed improvements to “the driveway to Key Biscayne,” that will not only benefit their residents, but equally as important, the millions of Miami-Dade residents and visitors that use the Rickenbacker Causeway every year.
Thank you for your continued consideration of this exciting project, and we look forward to submitting our proposal for the County’s evaluation.
Bernard Zyscovich Plan Z Consortium
Cc: Members of the Board of County Commissioners Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners