Spring 2012 – Focus on Legislative Agenda & Advocacy

At the February BHA Board meeting, BHA Vice President Gail Feldman led a visual presentation on some of the problems affecting Brickell Avenue. FDOT’s Gus Pego, the top man who has the power to make changes on Brickell Avenue, was in attendance at the meeting, along with leaders from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. The goal was to get those with the power to fix things in the same room at the same time. These top guns represent the key entities that have a stake and a responsibility for various aspects of the Brickell community’s roadways.

Photos, videos tell the story

Ms. Feldman presented compelling photos and videos of problems on Brickell Avenue, our “Main Street,” that make it unsafe and unattractive. The images were disheartening and maddening for residents, business owners, and property holders in the area, especially considering the property taxes they pay. Everyone agreed that the images should have been embarrassing for those responsible. (See photo highlights on pages 9-11.)

Any glimmer of hope?

Yet, weeks later, many of the most egregious incidents of City and County neglect remain uncorrected. Having seen the BHA presentation and personally confirming the poor condition of Brickell’s main thoroughfare, Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff asked for 90 days to come up with a plan for significant Brickell Avenue improvements. News from the Commissioner’s office at the time of publication is that they have identified partial funds needed for a beautification program involving medians, swales and sidewalks, as well as major art installations along Brickell. City department heads are likewise committed, we are told. Mayor Regalado also pledged his support.

Roadway safety

Beyond aesthetics, BHA is advocating for measures to make Brickell Avenue safer for those who use it for walking, strolling, running and cycling every day, as well as driving. BHA asked Mr. Pego to consider the following needs as identified by residents and those who live, work, play and drive in the Brickell community:

  • Maintaining the 30 mph speed limit for all of Brickell, post-construction. Currently the southern portion of Brickell is slated to go back up to 35 mph instead of 30 mph like the rest of Brickell when the roadway construction is completed, which is imminent.
  • Changing the dangerous pedestrian flashing beacon at the 1800 block for a real traffic signal before a pedestrian gets hit trying to cross.
  • Adding left turn arrows to the traffic signal at SE 15th Road and Brickell Avenue. Limited site visibility and speeding cars on Brickell make left turns in all directions dangerous here.
  • Changing the configuration at SE 26th Road and Brickell (shown above) to discourage the illegal, dangerous left turns when heading north on Brickell from 26th. We do not want to close the South Miami Avenue left turn access from 26th Road.
  • Not closing the left turn from Brickell Avenue to SE 6th Street.

A plan for SE 26th Road and Brickell intersection

Thus far, BHA has been successful on one count…where Miami-Dade County, not FDOT, is drawing up the plans. After presenting video footage of two flagrant traffic violations caught on tape in just 15 minutes’ time, Miami-Dade County re-looked at the SE 26th Road and Brickell Avenue intersection. For years BHA residents have complained about vehicles heading east on 26th Road before the toll plaza making illegal and dangerous left turns onto Brickell from the second left lane. Drivers make this illegal turn because the one left turn lane provided backs up, often beyond the holding queue space, and because the configuration of the lanes and median cut seem to encourage it.

Gaspar Miranda, P.E., assistant director of highway engineering for the Public Works and Waste Management Department reported a few days after the February BHA meeting that the County has agreed to not close the South Miami Avenue left turn access, which many feared would make the problems at Brickell and 26th Road even more acute. Mr. Miranda provided details of the changes to be made to the lane configuration in conjunction with the upcoming Rickenbacker toll plaza construction project. It is hoped that the changes mitigate the dangerous left turns that most residents have experienced. Mr. Miranda explained the planned improvements:

“As a part of the [Miami-Dade County] project to improve access to the Rickenbacker Causeway toll facility, we propose to narrow the SE 26 Road center median to extend that left-most eastbound straight lane (that you see individuals improperly turning left from) all the way back to South Miami Avenue, so that it will look like a straight lane and not be part of a left turn bay. We will also be using striping to “bend” all of the eastbound 26 Road straight lanes away from the left turn lane at the Brickell Avenue approach with a fat painted wedge median island to further clarify that only one lane turns left. All of this work is tied to changing the lane usage at the toll plaza and aligns with the striping between the plaza and Brickell Avenue. Since all of this work will be within State right of way, [Miami-Dade] Public Works and Waste Management Department is coordinating with FDOT to obtain their permits to accomplish this work.”

After the meeting, Miami Police Lieutenant Alberto Alberto responded with dedicated traffic enforcement at the SE 26th Road and Brickell Avenue intersection. He reported 40 summonses written and one traffic arrest in the days after the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Miranda for your speedy response and a sound plan for addressing the issue. BHA directors are disappointed we couldn’t have you assigned to the Brickell area permanently.

Who can help?

Mayor Regalado pledged his support on addressing the problems of safety and aesthetics along the Brickell corridor. “You have the support of the Mayor’s office to do it the right way,” Mayor Regalado said. “We are trying to do more with less, but we will try to do it with the County and State’s help.”

However, since Brickell Avenue is part of U.S. 1 and the State Highway system, the man who really controls the fate of Brickell residents is FDOT District VI Secretary, Gus Pego. After seeing photos of Brickell sidewalks in unsafe and unsightly condition and videos of roadway issues that create a walk-at-your-own-risk environment for pedestrians, Mr. Pego said that he would consider the requests and take another look at engineering studies, but made no promises on the key issues involving the speed limit and traffic signalization. Any added signals on Brickell Avenue would require FDOT approval.

“As you continue to get more density, traffic will slow down,” Mr. Pego said. “If the engineering study shows 30 mph, then we’ll go to 30 mph,” he said.

“Everything we’re doing on Brickell is going to raise the bar,” Mr. Pego told BHA Directors and residents. “Let us finish the [roadway refurbishing] project and see where we’re at. I have a whole page of notes.”

At the March BHA Board meeting County Mayor Carlos Gimenez offered his support on the Brickell safety measures and vowed to appeal to those in charge on BHA’s behalf.•

The next four pages further detail the problems facing Brickell with articles in our neighbors’ own words and photos from a typical walk along the Avenue.

From BHA News, Spring 2012, Vol. XXI, No. 1