Rickenbacker Causeway at Finish Line

Neighbors hope for fewer traffic backups at southern Brickell gateway

Brickell residents are seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel”, or in this case, at the end of the bridge, with the conclusion of Rickenbacker bridge repairs and construction surrounding the toll plaza nearly finished.

Construction on the West Bridge was completed in June and construction on the Bear Cut Bridge was completed in time for the Fourth of July weekend.

By the end of September, the Rickenbacker Causeway toll system is scheduled to be changed to the SunPass system. With the statewide SunPass system in place, there will no longer be separate lanes, thereby eliminating the need for motorists to stop so traffic should move more smoothly through this area.

“Once the conversion takes place, traffic will be limited to the four center lanes and the far right lane will be exclusively used for bicycles, 24 hours a day,” said Gayle Love, senior division director for Public Information & Outreach at Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management. This department is responsible for the operation, maintenance and collection of tolls on Rickenbacker Causeway.

“Anything to improve pedestrian and bikers safety is important to the Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Department and we want to make it so that anyone who uses it recreationally—as well as motorists—will be safe,” Love said.

Motorists driving through the Rickenbacker Causeway toll will be charged on their SunPass transponder (if they have one) or through the toll-by-plate system administered by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.

The regular toll using a SunPass transponder will remain at the current $1.75 per trip. The toll-by-plate rate is $2.25 per trip, plus a monthly $2.50 invoice fee imposed by the State (Turnpike Enterprise).

The rehab project on the Rickenbacker Causeway began when a routine bridge inspection found major concrete erosion among the pilings in August 2013.

“The Notice to Proceed was issued by Kiewit [the construction company] on May 1, 2013, however, because this was a design-build construction project, work did not begin until August 2013,” Love said.

Problems were initially detected at the bridge in late 2012. Here’s a recap of events leading up to the project’s implementation:

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) performed biennial inspections of the Bear Cut Bridge and all other fixed span bridges within the State of Florida as mandated by Federal statutes for many years.

The Miami-Dade County Public Works and Waste Management Department conducted follow-up inspections in order to confirm the FDOT findings. Although these inspections found deficiencies on the bridge, including some deterioration of the steel beams, they did not identify critical conditions that would dictate weight restrictions on the bridge until late 2012.

In 2010 the bridge’s sufficiency rating was 67 and by 2012 the sufficiency rating dropped to 21, a significant reduction that mandated immediate action. A possible reason for the dramatic drop in score in just two short years was attributed to the presence of grease which hindered the detection of the full extent of the deterioration.

The corrosion was evaluated and after consultation with FDOT, and a County-hired consulting engineering firm, the heavier vehicular traffic was diverted away from the steel beam side of the bridge onto the newer concrete beam portion of the bridge. A County emergency was then declared, funding was identified for repairs, and a construction contractor was selected and began work on the bridge. •

From BHA News Vol. XXIV No. 2, Summer/Fall 2014