|Public Safety and Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee Members
|Alina T. Hudak, City Manager
|March 22, 2023
DISCUSSION REGARDING ONGOING CONCERNS WITH THE 63RD STREET BRIDGE SCHEDULE, AND POTENTIAL MODIFICATIONS IN ORDER TO ADDRESS AND REMEDIATE ITS TRAFFIC IMPACT UPON MAJOR THOROUGHFARES IN THE VICINITY.
At the September 17, 2021 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Michael Gongora referred a discussion item regarding the 63 Street bridge schedule to the Neighborhood and Quality of Life Committee. This item is currently being sponsored by Commissioner Steven Meiner.
The 63 Street bascule bridge is a drawbridge located near the east end of SR 907/63 Street between Allison Road and Indian Creek Drive. The operations and maintenance of the 63 Street bridge are under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”). FDOT engages a private contractor to provide bridge tender services. The bridge tender is responsible for controlling bridge activity and maintaining bridge activity logs. The United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) establishes and regulates the drawbridge schedule.
At the March 11, 2015 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Micky Steinberg sponsored a discussion regarding potential modifications to the 63 Street bridge schedule. During the meeting, Transportation and Mobility Department staff presented traffic data showing a 45% increase in vehicular traffic on 63 Street from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. (morning peak) and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (afternoon peak) with no corresponding increase in marine traffic during those time periods.
On April 8, 2015, pursuant to City Commission direction, the City submitted a formal request to the USCG to modify the schedule of bridge openings for the 63 Street bridge, and, in particular, restricting bridge openings during the aforementioned morning and afternoon peak periods. Following an extensive public vetting process, including two comment periods in the Federal Register, the USCG approved the ruling modifying the drawbridge schedule pursuant to the City’s request. The new bridge schedule was endorsed by the City Commission via Resolution No. 2016-29346 and implemented by USCG in May 2016.
In December 2020, the USCG notified the City of the results of a review of the weekend schedule of the 63 Street bridge and its intent to modify the weekend schedule on a pilot basis to better serve the needs of vehicular traffic while ensuring the reasonable needs of marine traffic are maintained. Per the weekend bridge schedule in place at that time, the 63 Street bridge opened on demand on Saturdays and Sundays. The USCG pilot modified the weekend schedule to allow bridge openings on the hour and half-hour (only if there is demand) rather than on demand. The USCG deemed the pilot was successful, and after an extensive public comment period, the USCG officially approved the new weekend schedule in the Federal Register. Based on these latest changes, the current schedule of the 63 Street bridge is as follows:
- From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, the bridge will open on the hour and half hour (only if there is demand).
- From 7:10 a.m. to 9:55 a.m. and from 4:05 p.m. to 6:59 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays, the bridge will not open for passage of vessels, except emergency vessels or tug/tow vessels.
- From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays, the bridge will open on the hour and half-hour (only if there is demand), except on federal holidays when the bridge will operate on demand. Outside of those hours, on Saturdays and Sundays, the bridge operates on demand.
The City’s Transportation and Mobility Department staff periodically requests the 63 Street bridge activity logs from FDOT to review activity and track compliance with the current schedule outlined above. Based on an evaluation of the current weekend bridge schedule in early 2022, staff determined that it would be beneficial if the 63 Street bridge schedule is further modified such that the bridge would open on the hour and half hour (only if there is demand) from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays (rather than from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as it operates currently). Staff’s recommendation was based on a review of weekend bridge activity and is intended to reduce traffic congestion in the area, particularly from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends, due to frequent bridge openings that occur during the time when the bridge opens on demand.
At the March 29, 2022 Public Safety and Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee (“PSNQLC” or “Committee”) meeting, the Administration presented its findings and recommendation for a modification to the current weekend schedule of the 63 Street bridge. At the meeting, the Committee endorsed the Administration’s recommendation and passed a motion recommending that the City Administration submit a formal request to the USCG to consider an additional modification to the weekend schedule of the 63 Street bascule bridge, as recommended by the Administration, in order to reduce the traffic impacts on major thoroughfares in the vicinity of the 63 Street bridge on weekends.
On July 20, 2022, the City Commission adopted Resolution No. 2022-32232 (attached) accepting the recommendation of the PSNQLC, at its March 29, 2022 meeting, and directing the Administration to submit a formal request to the USCG for consideration of the recommended weekend bride schedule modification. Pursuant to this direction, the Transportation and Mobility Department transmitted a copy of the adopted resolution to the USCG for its consideration.
On December 14, 2022, Commissioner Steven Meiner referred a discussion to the PSNQLC regarding ongoing concerns with the 63 Street bridge schedule, and potential modifications in order to address and remediate its traffic impact upon major thoroughfares in the City.
As a result of numerous recent complaints from area residents regarding the frequency and duration of 63 Street bridge openings and resulting traffic congestion that occurs along 63 Street, northbound Alton Road, and southbound Indian Creek Drive, the Transportation and Mobility Department staff periodically conducts an in-depth review of the bridge activity logs. Staff has found that a significant increase in documented maritime activity has contributed to significantly longer queues of vessels waiting to pass under the 63 Street bridge. This higher demand has increased the duration of bridge openings from an average of three (3) minutes per opening in 2019 to approximately seven (7) minutes per opening in 2022. The increased duration of bridge openings has ultimately resulted in longer periods of traffic congestion along both directions of 63 Street, northbound Alton Road, and southbound Indian Creek Drive after a bridge opening. Furthermore, this congestion coupled with a high frequency of bridge openings does not allow the 63 Street corridor to recover and traffic signals to operate effectively.
Based on staff’s review of the October 2022 bridge activity logs, two exceptions were documented allowing passage of vessels during the restricted periods: on 10/24/22 from 4:02 PM to 4:25 PM and from 6:53 PM to 7:04 PM (coinciding with the start and end of the afternoon peak period restriction). No emergency vessels or tugs/tows were reported to cross during these bridge openings.
USCG Process for Consideration of Modifications to Drawbridge Schedules
The USCG has a formal process to consider modifications to drawbridge schedules. In order to request further modifications to the 63 Street bridge schedule, the City must submit a formal request to the USCG. Although not a requirement, the USCG encourages requestors to provide empirical data substantiating their request. The USCG reviews the request, and, if approved by the USCG, the Notice of Proposed Rule Making is published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period. Once all comments have been considered and the public comment period ends, the proposed final ruling is placed in the Federal Register for a second public comment period and final rule making. From inception, the USCG’s rule making process typically takes one to two years to complete.
With regard to the City’s recent request to the USCG to modify the weekend schedule of the 63 Street bridge, the USCG has responded that in order to consider the request, the City must submit a comprehensive traffic study for the area surrounding the 63 Street Bridge for the USCG’s review. Additionally, City staff would need to provide the USCG with actions and mitigation measures to reduce vehicle congestion in the area. Following the City’s submission of a traffic study, the USCG would evaluate the information and provide a determination. If the USCG determines that a change is not needed, a letter would be provided to the City stating the reason(s) for the denial of the requested changed; or if the USCG determines that a change is needed, the USCG would begin the federal rule making process which can take up to two years to complete.
It is worth noting that via a recent letter dated February 22, 2022 from the USCG to a Miami Beach resident (Attachment B), the resident’s request for a permanent change to the drawbridge operating schedule was denied. The USCG letter mentions that a permanent change to the drawbridge operating schedule was completed in March 2022 to assist the City with vehicle congestion in the area. The letter also references the City’s recent request to further restrict navigation and states that a determination by the USCG has not been made regarding the City’s request.
Current Status and Next Steps
Given the USCG’s requirement for the City to conduct a traffic study, City staff will reach out to the USCG to discuss the scope and methodology of a traffic study. Subsequently, the Transportation and Mobility Department will engage one of its consultants under the City’s General Transportation Planning and Traffic Engineering Consultant (i.e. rotational) contracts to conduct the traffic study required by the USCG. The scope of the traffic study may include an analysis of potential additional restrictions to the weekday bridge schedule, including potentially opening the bridge once an hour rather than the current frequency of every half hour, while maintaining the current bridge opening restrictions during morning and afternoon peak periods.
At this time, the scope and cost of a traffic study, as required by the USCG, has not been determined.
The current weekend schedule for the 63 Street bascule bridge consists of opening on the hour and half-hour (only if there is demand), from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except on federal holidays. Outside of those hours, on Saturdays and Sundays, the bridge operates on demand. In addition, during the weekdays, the bridge currently opens every half-hour (only if there is demand), excluding the morning and afternoon peak hours during which time the bridge does not open except for emergency vessels and tug/tows.
Based on an analysis of bridge activity logs, staff determined that additional modifications to the weekend schedule are warranted and beneficial from a traffic perspective. The City Commission endorsed the Administration’s recommendation via resolution shared with the USCG. In response to the City’s request, the USCG requires that the City conduct a traffic study to determine the impacts of the recommended modification to the weekend bridge schedule.
The City will reach out to the USCG to discuss the scope and methodology of the required traffic study and subsequently engage a traffic consultant to conduct the study. The traffic study may include an analysis of potential additional restrictions to the weekday schedule, including whether reducing the frequency of bridge openings during non-peak traffic periods (to once an hour rather than every half hour as per the current schedule) would be beneficial to reducing traffic congestion in the area.
The Administration will continue to provide periodic updates to the PSNQLC on the status of this effort as they become available.
|Is this a "Residents Right to Know" item, pursuant to City Code Section 2-14?
|Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
|Mobility - Address traffic congestion.