Victory! Brickell Avenue is finally 30 mph all the way

After years of advocating for a 30-mph speed limit on Brickell Avenue all the way from the Miami River to Southeast 26th Road, BHA was happy to see the change finally came, just in time for the winter holidays. The 30 mph speed limit signs were installed along the southern portion of Brickell Avenue in December, from SE 15th Road to SE 26th Road, a stretch that was 40 mph until six years ago.

Perhaps 10 miles per hour doesn’t sound like a big deal to those new to the area. Certainly a residential community like Brickell, despite its high-rise homes, deserves the same neighborly speed limit all residential areas enjoy. And certainly if we expect folks to walk, jog, cycle and use the trolley, they can’t do it safely or comfortably when cars are zooming by.

But, it’s taken the better part of 25 years, a fatality and a change in control of the roadway to reduce the speed limit to a safer rate.

The Advocacy Road is Long

A long-time Brickell resident, 83-year-old Rosa Encalada was crossing Brickell Avenue in front of her condo, Brickell Bay Club, at the 2300 block, when she was struck by a taxicab heading north. She died shortly thereafter.

Rosa walked daily in the neighborhood, to the grocery store, to church. She caught the bus. She walked for her health and at doctor’s advice, and was in good health, her daughter-in-law Teresa Encalada said. “We anticipated having her be with us for another 20 years.”

Along with speeding—encouraged by long, uninterrupted stretches of roadway without traffic signals to slow cars down—the limited number of crosswalks has long been a bone of contention, with only two in the largely residential portion of Brickell between SE 15th Road and SE 26th Road.

Teresa shared the news of her mother-in-law’s tragic death with BHA in November 2010, who appealed to local officials. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, then-City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, then-County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the Downtown Development Authority and other transit and cyclist advocacy groups joined the BHA neighbors in chorus. All insisted FDOT re-evaluate its position on Brickell Avenue, Miami’s densest pedestrian district, before construction on the resurfacing project was to begin. Although technically part of U.S. Highway 1, it shouldn’t be operated as one. At press conference in December 2010, a reduction in the speed limit was announced.

FDOT lowered the speed limit to 30 mph during the roadway resurfacing project, but when the project was complete, refused to bend to the community wishes, and raised it up to 35 mph.

So, for the next few years BHA advocated that control of the roadway move from State highway control to local control, where decisions in the best interest of the community could more readily be made.

Brickell Avenue “Highway”  No More

Local control of Brickell Avenue was finally achieved in June 2013 with the help of elected officials who took up BHA’s cause. But further progress on getting the speed limit lowered had been stalled. Then, although no longer under FDOT as a State-controlled roadway, ironically it was our State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez who assisted the City’s efforts and pushed for this change to finally come about, working with both City and County governments.

First the City of Miami had to recommend the change, then Miami-Dade County, which is in charge of transit county-wide, had to agree to make the change. Then the signs had to be ordered and installed. Finally, the last of the 30 mph signs were put in place in December, signaling it’s finally happened after so many years.

Thank you Rep. José Javier Rodríguez and Commissioner Ken Russell, and before them, Commissioner Sarnoff and Senator Miguel de la Portilla-Diaz, for making this happen for the residents of Brickell.

roseencaladaNow that Brickell Avenue has achieved neighborhood speed status, more crosswalks and signals to better accommodate pedestrians are needed. BHA regularly receives inqueries about what is being done to add crosswalks, and is working with Commissioner Russell on this and other safety measures.

BHA advocates have stayed on the issue of Brickell Avenue speeding and safety, remembering Rosa, and Teresa’s words:

“It was a horrible way for her to die. She was the mother of eight, grandmother to 25 and great-grandmother to six,” Teresa said at the time. “Brickell Avenue needs to be safer so it doesn’t happen to anyone else’s beloved family member.”