Development schedule could pave way to redesign downtown Miami's one-way routes
By Frank Norton
As proposals to develop the Dupont Plaza area of Miami gain speed, city planners warn now is the time to redesign the one-way routes that can cripple traffic throughout downtown.
"This is the last opportunity that we will have to make some sense out of the situation," said Clark Turner, city transportation adviser.
The geographic heart of the business district, Dupont Plaza is just north of the Miami River and west of Biscayne Bay. The area's circuit of one-way streets, traffic from interstate exits and frequent openings of the Brickell Avenue Bridge leading south to the financial district worsens bottlenecks in a neighborhood still building office towers, hotels and condos.
The remaining lots that are undeveloped here are going to develop very quickly," Mr. Turner said, referring to retail and residential high-rises planned for the mostly vacant parking lots. "So it's do or die. This is the opportunity to do something or live with it from now on the way it is."
Two towers planned to add about 900 residential units already have permits, with proposals for three more towers totaling more than 1,300 units expected to face the Miami City Commission this month.
With about $1.3 million in transportation design work already financed by the state, city officials have about 11 months to figure out what to do, if anything, with traffic flow through the inner passages of downtown.
The city, which is to conclude an environmental study of the area in August 2003, is already vying for $8 million to $10 million in state funds for construction costs assuming a major redesign project is warranted, Mr. Turner said.
"Since we have the money for the PD&E (environmental study) and for design we're going to plow ahead through those phases and keep our fingers crossed as to what's going to happen in subsequent phases," he said.
Mr. Turner and city-hired traffic engineers support redesigning the streets into a two-way grid system. However, the advisory committee overseeing the environmental study is to consider all options, including "doing nothing," he said.
He said a two-way system improves traffic flow geometrically by multiplying turning options at each intersection. A one-way system, he said, forces extra movements and bottlenecks that clog passages.
Some downtown stakeholders fear a two-way system could jeopardize their interests.
Timothy Keable, a director with Insignia ESG representing the first Union Financial Center and the city's tallest office building, said the two-way plan would block access to the tower's garage and possibly the loading dock. He said preliminary two-way designs fail to integrate with the building, whose access was designed for a one-way system.
"But we have to solve these gridlock issues," said Tim Plummer of David Plummer and Associates, a Coral Gables-based traffic engineering firm. "And one way to do that is two-way circulation."
"One of the key components and economic engines to a successful downtown is a well-run transportation system. If we don't improve the capacity of our gateway, we're going to drive business away," said Mr. Plummer, who's designing two-way alternatives for downtown.
"When you look at this area of Dupont Plaza it looks like an island in downtown Miami. Development has occurred around it and the streets have become an extension of our expressway system," he said, referring to the I-95 ramps that spill hundreds of commuters into the area.