A major construction project is underway along Biscayne Boulevard in Northeast Miami to make the overloaded roadway more safe, according to Florida’s Department of Transportation.
And at least for now, some residents say traffic along Biscayne is worse than ever: Left-turn lanes are temporarily gone and there’s little signage to tell motorists how to navigate the mess.
“It’s made the traffic much, much worse,” said Elizabeth Schwartz, an attorney who lives in a condo on Northeast 33rd Street near Biscayne Bay. “When I try to turn into my home, because I don’t have a lane now to turn off Biscayne on 33rd Street, everybody backs up behind me or I have to wait forever because someone’s in front of me and everyone’s backed up behind them. It’s literally just made the situation from bad to worse
The construction project runs along Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 32nd to 38th streets, as well as along Northeast 36th Street from North Miami Avenue to east of Northeast Fifth Avenue.
This federally funded project came after an FDOT safety study. Construction is scheduled to be done in December, barring weather or unforeseen conditions.
An FDOT safety study recorded crash data from 2014 through 2017, and concluded that the segment of Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 33rd to 38th streets is one of the top areas in Miami-Dade and Monroe County Districts for frequency of crashes.
About 300 documented crashes occurred during the study, and FDOT concluded they were caused by a lack of gaps in traffic along Biscayne Boulevard when drivers turned to and from side streets.
The main portion of the project involves building raised medians and a widened roadway along Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 36th Street, just below the entrances/exits to State Road 112 and Interstate 95 and 195. Other work to be done includes upgrading roadway signs and pedestrian ramps, adjusting traffic signals and bus shelters, installing crosswalks, repaving the roadway and trimming landscape.
The Northeast 36th Street project includes paving and restriping the roadway, adjusting manholes, upgrading pedestrian ramps, signs and markers, and installing countdown pedestrian signals at the intersection of North Miami Avenue.
“A series of recommendations were developed by the department to directly address the identified crash patterns along Biscayne Boulevard,” said Sandra Bello, a community outreach specialist contracted for the project. “As a result, the department made the decision to implement medians along this corridor for safety purposes. We are also extending the southbound left-turn lane at the signalized intersection of Northeast 33rd Street, and incorporating a southbound left-turn green arrow to facilitate the left turn.”
FDOT says the medians and extension of the southbound left lane will help reduce left-turn crashes at intersections without traffic signals. The construction will also improve the gaps in traffic to decrease the chance of a collision, according to FDOT.
The construction project is impacting traffic and causing new delays for commuters.
With traffic slowed on both sides of the divided highway, making a left turn is even more difficult due to the increased traffic. And those stuck behind drivers turning left must wait until intersection traffic finally clears before moving forward — causing even worse slowdowns.
Because it’s a safety project, no environmental study was done and project planners could not completely foresee how traffic would be impacted during construction.
Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents the affected neighborhood, says he is aware of the situation.
“We have visited the site and are working together with the FDOT to make sure residents’ concerns are addressed,” Russell said. “We look forward to further study.”
The good news, according to the FDOT: This part of the project will be done by mid August.
“We are prioritizing the roadway and signal work at Northeast 33rd Street,” Bello said. “This will place a dedicated left-turn lane with a dedicated green arrow and widening the road to allow U-turns at the intersection of Northeast 33rd Street.”
FDOT suggests that until construction is completed, vehicles seeking access to Northeast 34th Street may continue south and make a left turn on Northeast 33rd Street followed by a left turn on Northeast Fifth Avenue. They also say vehicles driving southbound on Biscayne can still make a left on Northeast 34th Street.
Construction signs, and markers have been placed to help drivers navigate the work zone. The traffic shift that maintains two lanes of traffic in both directions will remain for a good portion of the project. Single-lane closures may occur from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.