Williamson finding much to be thankful for with the news from Regalado and Cava on Rickenbacker project

Village of Key Biscayne Manager Steve Williamson woke up with a vibrant, confident feeling Wednesday morning — and it wasn’t just because of the cooler weather.

A day after Commissioner Raquel Regalado suggested in a memorandum to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava that the current county bidding procurement process to improve and enhance the Rickenbacker Causeway should start anew, Williamson was certainly hopeful things would move in the “right direction.”

“We all agree (in the Village), and the Commissioner’s Office agrees, that maybe we need to take a step back and gather more information,” said Williamson, regarding specifics on how (and how much) tolls would be collected, operation and maintenance costs, and additional survey assessments to the famed 5.4-mile causeway.

That would result in a more thorough Request for Proposal (RFP), allowing bidders to come in with an equal opportunity.

The current RFP measuring stick is based on an unsolicited proposal to the county in which the Plan Z Consortium has come up with possible plans that include not only the replacement of 77-year-old Bear Cut Bridge, but also reported amenities such as an observation deck, bike repair shop and even a meeting area or possible banquet area.

“One of (Commissioner Regalado’s) ideas was to gather a group of interested stakeholders and see what can — and needs — to be done,” Williamson said, “and then work collaboratively with the public and anyone who’s interested, and come up with a list of prioritized things we need.”

“We’re very happy Commissioner Regalado mentioned the Bear Cut Bridge because we think that’s our top priority,” Williamson said. “And, like she said, the (dangerous) intersection of MAST Academy that she’s been working on, we need to come up with an immediate solution for that while we’re focusing on the long term.”

The Plan Z Consortium essentially is the starting point to improve safety on the causeway where several bicyclists have been struck and killed over the years. According to official statistics, some 500,000 bicyclists and 250,000 pedestrians annually use some parts of the Rickenbacker Causeway, one of the busiest roadways in South Florida, averaging 10 million vehicles a year, according to the Miami Herald.

Williamson also lauded Mayor Levine Cava’s self-commissioned — and thorough — Value for Money (VfM) assessment, and also her patience to see where federal funds from the recently signed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill could be heading, possibly to offset the estimated $310 million cost it would take to rebuild the Bear Cut Bridge.

“It’s time to step back for some rethinking, how (the federal government) plans on restoring all the infrastructure, and that’s really important to find this thing and drive us in the right direction,” Williamson said.

“But I like the direction in which we’re going. Let’s just say I’m optimistic.”

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