Palmetto Bay Bridge Proposal Sparks Debate

Allison Strasius, staff writer

A proposal to build a bridge over the Cutler drain canal on 87th Avenue continues to spark major controversy among Miami residents even 40 years after its initial proposal.  

The bridge would join the ends of 164th Street and 163rd Terrace, with the goal of reducing the heavy traffic that backs up main roads like US-1, yet simultaneously resulting in increased traffic for residential neighborhoods.

“What they’re trying to do is run a major road through historic neighborhoods. It’s going to make it unsafe for those here and it’s also going to encourage people to instead of getting on mass transit, to just drive through neighborhoods as fast as they can to get to where they want to go,” mayor of Palmetto Bay Eugene Flinn said.

Residents of these neighborhoods made their frustrations clear at a block party hosted Sunday, January 21 at the end of 87th Avenue, the construction site of the possible future bridge.

“The primary concern that I have is safety- safety for the neighborhood, from the standpoint of our children, people that jog and walk their dogs around here… I’m very concerned because a lot of our artery streets don’t have sidewalks. I’m concerned that dogs can get hurt or people can get hurt,” 87th Avenue resident and homeowner Gilbert Viera said.

With a deep-seated use of navigation apps like Waze among drivers today, the fear of an overspill of traffic into back roads and small neighborhoods is massive. Waze works to map a route to a desired destination for drivers that heavily implements back roads and shortcuts to save travel time.

“An extreme concern that everyone around here has is navigation apps that are basically affecting not only our area, but it’s affecting our neighbors to the south who want the bridge. If you now have 2,000 cars going through the neighborhood, you’re going to have 4,000 cars because the navigation apps are going to direct people out of US-1 into our neighborhood,” Viera said.

The effects of the bridge’s construction would not solely be limited to Palmetto Bay residents, but would also affect commuters driving as far as Brickell and Downtown Miami.

“The time has come and gone when we need to get people out of their cars that are heading to Coconut Grove, that are heading to the Gables, Brickell, Downtown, to the Civic Center where the hospitals and the courts are- criminal courts, because the day is over when you can just get in your car and expect to have a reasonable commute there,” mayor Flinn said. “It’s faster, and that’s one of the things that changed.”

The estimated price tag for the construction of the bridge currently rests at $1.9 million according to county estimation, which will be paid for in multiple ways.

“The actual construction cost will be paid out of county tax dollars but it’ll be the residents here that’ll be paying for it through costs, through loss in value and loss of piece of mind, and loss of ability to safely live and enjoy their neighborhood,” mayor Flinn said.  

The vote on the passing or rejecting of the 87th Avenue Bridge has been delayed and deferred three times already. As of now, Thursday, January 25 marks the final voting day, which will gather commissioners from all over Miami-Dade county to decide whether the bridge will be built or not, depending on the majority vote.

“It’s going to be very close. A no-vote from the TPO [Transportation Planning Organization] will stop the bridge in its tracks.” Flinn said.  “A yes-vote just moves the fight a little further down the road.”