Item Coversheet



TO: Finance and Citywide Projects Committee Members

Jimmy L. Morales

DATE: April 19, 2019


Ensure Comprehensive Mobility Addressing All Modes Throughout The City


The I-395/SR 836/I-95 Project ("Connecting Miami") is a partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX), with construction limits on State Road (SR) 836 beginning at NW 17 Avenue and continuing through the SR 836/I-395/I-95 (Midtown) Interchange to the MacArthur Causeway Bridge. The limits on I-95 are from NW 8 Street to NW 29 Street. 


Enhancements along I-395 are from the SR 836/I-95/I-395 (Midtown) Interchange to the MacArthur Causeway, approximately 1.4 miles long. The project will completely reconstruct the existing facility and create a signature bridge that will span 1,025 feet over NE 2 Avenue and SR5/Biscayne Boulevard, redefining the Miami skyline with its six sweeping arches.


The project will create additional capacity on I-395 with a total of three (3) through lanes in each direction and provide separate connector ramps for traffic to and from I-95. The existing I-395 eastbound off-ramps at NE 2 Avenue will be moved west to North Miami Avenue, and the westbound on-ramps at NE 1 Avenue will be shifted to the west of North Miami Avenue. NW 2 Avenue will also be reconnected under I-395, providing residents greater access.  Mobility will be enhanced for residents, commuters and tourists by increasing capacity on SR 836, I-95 and I-395. SR 836 will be double-decked to allow for a direct connection between SR 836 and I-395.


The Connecting Miami Project commenced in Summer 2018 and is anticipated to be completed by Fall 2023.  Traffic impacts during the multi-year construction project due to multiple and continuous lane/ramp closures and detours along I-95, SR 836, and I-395 are expected to adversely affect mobility for Miami Beach residents, visitors, and workforce employees.


As an example, over the three (3) year period that the FDOT Alton Road Reconstruction Project from 5 Street to Michigan Avenue was under construction (from April 2013 to March 2016), average daily traffic volumes on the MacArthur Causeway decreased by approximately 9% as compared to pre-construction volumes.   In contrast, average daily traffic volumes on the Julia Tuttle Causeway increased by approximately 7% (essentially, over 10,000 additional vehicles per day on the already congested Julia Tuttle Causeway. 

This magnitude of traffic diversion from one major arterial to another as a result of a major roadway reconstruction project is not uncommon as these types of projects are known to effectuate changes in traffic patterns not only temporarily during construction, but sometimes permanently even after construction is over.  


The City of Miami Beach is concerned with the potential effects that the multi-year construction of the Connecting Miami Project and other ongoing and planned FDOT projects on the City's causeways and major arterials will have on mobility.


At the March 13, 2019 City Commission meeting, the Administration  presented various traffic mitigation strategies that could be explored in collaboration with FDOT and Miami-Dade County to help mitigate traffic impacts and ensure mobility for residents, visitors, and workforce employees during the construction of the Connecting Miami and other major FDOT projects in and around the City.  At the meeting, the City Commission adopted Resolution No. 2019-30757 recommending that the Administration pursue traffic mitigation strategies, including an operating level of agreement specific to communication protocols with respect to the Connecting Miami Signature Bridge Project..  One of the potential traffic mitigation strategies recommended by the Administration (water taxi service) was removed by the City Commission from the list of recommended strategies for the City to pursue.  In addition, the item was referred to the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee (FCWPC) for an update.  The traffic mitigation strategies approved by the City Commission, and a brief description of each, are listed below.



1. Accelerate the implementation of the Beach Express North Bus Express Rapid Transit (BERT) Demonstration Service or Route 150 (Airport Express) Modifications.


The Miami-Dade County Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan contains six (6) Rapid Transit Corridors and nine (9) Bus Express Rapid Transit (BERT) routes for Miami-Dade County. BERT service consists of enhanced branded buses operating limited stop service on shoulders or dedicated transit lanes, where feasible, to reduce travel time and help ensure service schedule reliability.  Advancing the BERT routes to Miami Beach could help mitigate the impacts of the Connecting Miami projects.

There are three (3) BERT routes that are proposed to connect the mainland to Miami Beach.  The Beach Express North BERT route will run from Golden Glades Multimodal Center to the Miami Beach City Center area via the Julia Tuttle Causeway.  The Beach Express Central BERT route will run from the Miami Civic Center/Health District complex to the Miami Beach City Center area via the Julia Tittle Causeway.  The Beach Express South BERT route will run from Downtown Miami to the Miami Beach City Center area via the MacArthur Causeway.  Via a Resolution of the City Commission, the City of Miami Beach allocated funding in the amount of $5.1 million for a 3-year Beach Express North BERT demonstration service using the shoulders of the Julia Tuttle Causeway.  The City's contribution is equally matched by FDOT funds for the demonstration service.


As of December 5, 2018, FDOT has programmed funds for the design and construction of the inside shoulders modifications needed to operate the BERT service on the Julia Tuttle Causeway by 2022.  A goal of all parties is to work toward implementation prior to the estimated 2022 completion date. 


Additionally, the Administration is working with the County to potentially modify existing bus routes (such as the Airport Express (Route 150)) to provide a connection to the Earlington Heights Metrorail station (providing access to commuters from northwest Miami-Dade and west Broward) and stop at Mt. Sinai and Fontainebleau, as an interim service enhancement.  The goal is to implement the interim service as part of the County's new service line-up in November 2019.  Advancing a modified Route 150 could also help mitigate the traffic impacts of the Connecting Miami Project.



2. Enhance service of the County Route "A" 


The original Route A operated along the Venetian Causeway connecting Omni Station in Miami and Washington Avenue/Lincoln Road area in Miami Beach. As a result of weight restrictions imposed by the County on the Venetian Causeway bridges in 2014, the route and service plan was modified and currently consists of limited service between Omni Station and Sunset Harbour using smaller vehicles (cutaways), operating on a limited schedule of 7.5 hours per day (7:00AM to 9:32AM and 2:00PM to 6:52PM).  On a long term basis, the County’s plan is to reestablish the original Route A service plan when all the Venetian Causeway bridges are reconstructed and allow for operation of regular bus service.  In the meanwhile, the County does not have any plans for enhancing the current service.  Route A service enhancement was most recently discussed by the City Commission in February 2018 and a Resolution was adopted by the City Commission urging Miami-Dade County to reinstate, at no cost to the City of Miami Beach, the original Route A service plan; however, no service improvements have been made by the County.  Enhancing the Route A service could be a potential traffic mitigation strategy.  Based on an previous analysis conducted by staff in coordination with the County, the incremental cost of restoring the original Route A service plan would be approximately $230,000/year for approximately 11 hours  of service per day from Monday to Sunday.



3. Explore waiving tolls on the Venetian Causeway


During previous construction projects on the City's causeways, at the request of the City, Miami-Dade County has waived toll collection along the Venetian Causeway. This initiative has been put into effect to improve capacity and mobility between Miami Beach and the mainland.  Waiving tolls on the Venetian Causeway can assist in reducing traffic demand on the MacArthur Causeway which will be affected by the Connecting Miami Project.  Further, this initiative could help balance traffic volumes along the other causeways into the City and reduce the overall impact of the project.  This measure would require prior approval by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, thus, coordination with Miami-Dade County would be required if this option is explored. 


Active Work Zone Traffic Monitoring and Management


As part of the Connecting Miami Project, FDOT will deploy Active Work Zone Traffic Monitoring and Management services along the affected project corridors.  This initiative consists of deploying cameras to monitor traffic conditions, wi-fi/Bluetooth devices to gauge travel time, Variable Message Signs to disseminate real-time information on closures and incidents to the motoring public, and Road Rangers to help clear incidents blocking travel lanes.  This effort will be managed by FDOT SunGuide Traffic Management Center and the same contractor that has been providing Traffic Monitoring and Management Services for the City of Miami Beach for over 4 years.


This initiative was utilized during the Alton Road Reconstruction Project between 5 Street and N. Michigan Avenue and proved to be successful in reducing some of the congestion created by the lane closures and detours. The implementation of Active Work Zone Traffic Monitoring and Management for the FDOT Connecting Miami Project would extend the capabilities of the City’s current Traffic Monitoring and Management effort and planned Intelligent Transportation System and Smart Parking System Project by enhancing the sharing of real-time traffic information, traffic data, incident information, and other relevant items to assist in managing congestion and help reduce spill-back onto City roads.



City Administration staff met with FDOT District 6 Secretary Jim Wolfe and members of his staff on April 5, 2019.  City staff representatives included City Manager Jimmy L. Morales, Assistant City Manager Kathie G. Brooks, and Transportation Director Jose R. Gonzalez.  County representatives attended via conference call and included Transportation and Public Works Director Alice Bravo..  At the meeting, the Administration listed various major FDOT construction projects in Miami Beach and vicinity that are either ongoing or upcoming in the next few years and which are currently impacting or expected to impact access to/from the mainland and Miami Beach as well as mobility within Miami Beach..  City staff presented some concerns regarding the impact of various ongoing and upcoming major FDOT construction projects on the City's causeways and thoroughfares, including the imminent I-95/SR 836/I-395/MacArthur Causeway "Signature Bridge" Project.  Below is a list of major FDOT construction projects in the City programmed over the next five (5) years which were individually discussed at the April 5 meeting with FDOT in terms of the existing and anticipated impact of overlapping construction activity and lane closures.

Ongoing FDOT Construction:
1. I-95 Concrete Replacement from NW 29 St to NW 131 St (Feb 2017 – Oct 2020 but contractor expects to finish by Jan 2020 to receive a $1.5 million bonus)
2. MacArthur Causeway East Bridge Rehabilitation (Aug 2018 – Jun 2020) – 1 EB lane closed 24/7 until Oct 2019.
3. Alton Road/Dade Boulevard Bridge Rehabilitation (April 2019 to Nov 2019) (Potential nighttime closures).

4. Indian Creek Drive from 26 St to 41 Street (FDOT/City project) (2017 - 2020)

Upcoming FDOT Construction:
1. 395/SR836/I-95 Design/Build Project (Signature Bridge) (2018 – 2023)
2. Alton Road and Michigan Ave - new SB left turn lane (Apr 2019 – Nov 2019)
3. Districtwide ITS Device Replacement and Installation – May 2019 (3 nights only to replace the overhead Digital Message Sign on EB I-195
4. Indian Creek Drive between 63 St and Abbott Ave - nighttime lane closures (Jun 2019 to Oct 2019)

5. Julia Tuttle Causeway Inside Shoulder Rehab for BERT Service - nighttime lane closures (2020 - 2022)
6. Alton Road from Michigan Ave to 43 St (2022/23- 2024/25)
7. Alton Road from 43 St to Allison Road (2022/23 – 2024/25)

8. Collins Avenue from 4600 Block to 5700 Block - construction timeframe is not known as project is currently in planning phase; construction will begin after Alton Road projects above are completed).
9. Venetian Causeway Bridges - Construction by County; timeframe is not known and project is not fully funded at this time. 


At the meeting, City staff presented several requests for FDOT's consideration, including potentially deferring the Signature Bridge work on the I-395/I-95 ramps until after completion of the ongoing I-95 Concrete Replacement and the ongoing MacArthur Causeway East Bridge Rehabilitation work (i.e. 2020).  Additionally, the City requested that FDOT defer the upcoming Indian Creek Drive resurfacing project in North Beach as well as the intersection work at Alton Road and Michigan Avenue until 2021.  FDOT expressed serious concerns with deferring any of the aforementioned upcoming construction projects due to potentially significant delay costs for which FDOT would be liable to the contractor (e.g. FDOT would incur approximately $1 million per day for any delay to the contractor caused by FDOT on the Signature Bridge Project); however, FDOT committed to work closely with the City on the Alton Road/Michigan Avenue project and the Indian Creek Drive project to close lanes only during off-peak weekday periods (9:30AM to 3:30PM) and during nighttime after 9PM if the work is not occurring in a residential area.  Further, FDOT agreed to inform City staff of any unforeseen or emergency lane closures during peak traffic periods such that the City would have the opportunity to disseminate the lane closure information  to the community. 


Additionally, at the City's request, FDOT agreed to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and interactive map of all FDOT construction projects affecting Miami Beach, including projects on I-95 and the causeways, and to provide this map to the City for input on a weekly basis.  The map will help ensure coordination among the various individual FDOT construction projects and will serve as a communication tool and an information resource both for City staff as well as for the Miami Beach community to obtain the latest information on lane/ramp closures and detours associated with various FDOT construction projects in and around the City. 


Below is a status update on each of the traffic mitigation strategies based on recent interagency discussions and the outcome of the April 5 meeting among the City, County, and FDOT.


1. Accelerate the implementation of the Beach Express North Bus Express Rapid Transit (BERT) Demonstration Service or Route 150 (Airport Express) Modifications.


The County has engaged a consultant to develop the BERT Project Justification Report required by FDOT.  The report is anticipated to be completed by end of November 2019.  The report will include pertinent information needed by FDOT in order to begin designing the bus by-pass or "queue jumper" lanes and transit signal priority technology at key intersections along the BERT route in addition to the structural improvements to the inside shoulders of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Transit signal priority for the BERT service is essential as it will allow the downstream traffic signal controllers and the BERT bus to communicate as the bus approaches the traffic signal.  Once the bus is detected by the traffic signal, the signal timing will automatically adapt (in real-time) to prioritize the bus movement through the intersection. This technology will improve the efficiency and reliability of the future BERT service, by reducing travel times.    


Additionally, on a parallel and more immediate track, the Administration is working with the County to potentially modify existing bus routes (such as the Airport Express (Route 150)) to provide service similar to the proposed Beach Express North BERT service in the short-term as an interim service enhancement, in particular, connecting to the Earlington Heights Metrorail Station and Mount Sinai Medical Campus.  City staff met with County staff on February 14, 2019 to discuss the proposed Route 150 modifications.  The County stated that it would evaluate the proposed route modification, and, if approved, the County could potentially implement the interim Route 150 service as part of the County's new service line-up in November 2019. 


Of note is the significant interest in the BERT service and the Route 150 modification by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Higgins. Discussions have been initiated on ways to advance the BERT schedule.  At the March 13 City Commission meeting, County Commissioner Higgins suggested that Route 150 modifications be part of the upcoming Better Bus Project by Transit Alliance.  


2. Enhance service of the County Route "A" 


To date, the County has not made progress on the City's prior requests, including a City Commission Resolution, to enhance the Route A service across the Venetian Causeway.  Based on a recent discussion with County staff, the County has not been able to identify the funding required for the enhanced service in its operating budget for Fiscal Year 2018/19.  At the March 13 City Commission meeting, County Commissioner Higgins stated that she has been working with County staff and advocating for this enhanced service. 


3. Explore waiving tolls on the Venetian Causeway


At the April 5 meeting, FDOT stated that it would support the City's efforts to seek approval from the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for a waiver of tolls on the Venetian Causeway on an as-needed basis during the construction duration of the Signature Bridge Project.   Given the time required to seek and obtain BCC approval of a toll waiver, the City and FDOT will work collaboratively to secure a Resolution from the BCC as early as possible such that the toll waiver is available to be exercised when needed for traffic mitigation purposes.   


4. Operating Agreement for Communications Protocol


As mentioned above, FDOT will be developing an interactive map with real-time lane closures and detour information for all active FDOT projects in and around Miami Beach.  The map will be shared with City staff and disseminated to the community through the City's various communication networks, including traffic text alerts, email blasts, and social media.  In addition, the City's Communications Department is working with FDOT on the communication protocols requested by the City Commission for the FDOT Signature Bridge Project and other major FDOT projects occurring concurrently. 


Active Work Zone Traffic Monitoring and Management


The City's Traffic Monitoring and Management contractor will work closely with the FDOT SunGuide 511 Traffic Management Center to inform motorists in advance of any lane/ramp closures and detours using the City's and FDOT's Digital Message Signs strategically located throughout the City.  To inform inbound traffic, the City and FDOT will communicate to ensure the overhead Digital Message Signs on I-95, SR 836/I-395 eastbound, and SR 112/I-195 eastbound are programmed in advance of and during lane closures so that motorists coming to Miami Beach can make informed decisions as to which route to take.