Businesses say state could do more to help during Biscayne work
By Yeleny Suarez
Some businesses are calling for the state to let customers know they're still open despite reconstruction of Biscayne Boulevard in two strips between Northeast 87th Street and 123rd Street, due for completion next year.
The Florida Department of Transportation began the 18-month project Oct. 5, blocking off the roadway a lane at a time to upgrade the boulevard. Business owners say it's also blocking out customers.
"Our business used to have traffic of 60 to 70 guests on a weekday, and now it is down to 25 to 30," said Dewey LoSasso, owner of North One 10 restaurant, 11052 Biscayne Blvd. "Saturdays was 150 and now 90 to 100. I knew this was going to happen before I bought the place, but I did not expect such little support from the city, (the state transportation department) and Miami-Dade County. Yes, there are blue construction signs up, but more can be done."
One of the construction projects is between Northeast 104th and 123rd streets and the other between Northeast 87th and 104th streets, said Tish Burgher, public information manager for the state transportation department.
The reconstruction includes a new roadway drainage system, reconstruction of the roadbed, new sidewalks and handicap ramps on both sides of Biscayne Boulevard and new streetlights, signage, traffic signals and pedestrian signals, she said.
Construction will be done in phases, Ms. Burgher said. First, contractors will work on the outside northbound lane, then in the middle of the road and finally on the outside southbound lane.
"There will be lane closure associated with each phase," she said, "but there will be at least one lane of traffic in each direction at all times.
"When the big $12 million Washington Avenue project was done at Miami Beach, Ronnie Singer, community information manager for the (city's) capital improvement office, put together a business-as-usual campaign that educated the public using signs, banners and brochures that business remained open during construction. ... Why can't that be done here?" Mr. LoSasso said. "I spoke to Ms. Burgher on the thought, but she said she'd get back to me a week ago."
Ms. Burgher said the reconstruction will be posted in the transportation department's project newsletter, which is published after project milestones are met, to help create awareness of the street construction.
"This reconstruction is nothing new," said County Commissioner Sally Heyman, whose district covers the work areas. "It has been in the master plan for five years. My position was get it done and get the funds for it."
M. Vila Associates Inc., the contractor working between 87th and 104th streets, will receive $250,000 as a milestone bonus if it completes work by May 8, 2006, Ms. Burgher said. If the company completes the project by March 2006, it would receive an additional $250,000.
Horizons Contractors Inc., working between Northeast 104th and 123rd streets, has a contract that Ms. Burgher calls an incentive/disincentive.
"The contractor will receive $5,000 a day for a maximum of 100 days for every day they exceed anticipated completion in mid-February 2006," she said. "If they pass the anticipated date, they will be fined $5,000 per day."
"Construction at any time always causes adverse consequences," Commissioner Heyman said. "It creates change. We are working with professionals at all ends to get it done quickly and correctly. We are not going to stop halfway. ... This is something that needs to be completed now."