Tamiami Trail project moves forward, could break ground in October
By Scott E. Pacheco
It's been about 19 years since Congress told the US Army Corps of Engineers to increase water flow to a "parched" Everglades National Park.
But there is hope now that the latest proposal for a one-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail will break ground in October and wrap up in spring 2012. The estimated $212 million Tamiami Trail Modifications Project would restore more natural water flows into Everglades National Park under the bridge, which is part of the Tamiami Trail, and reduce water levels in the Everglades north of the Trail.
District commander of the Army Corps Col. Paul L. Grosskruger signed off on the recommended project, before it was reviewed by the chief of engineers and the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. The project was slated to be delivered to Congress July 1.
Currently, the Trail acts as a "dam" between the north and south sides of the roadway, said Nanciann Regalado, spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers.
"If we build that bridge, what we want to do is allow water to get higher on the north side of the bridge so we can flow more water' to the south side, she said.
The plan includes raising a one-mile section of Tamiami Trail into a bridge about two miles west of the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Krome Avenue. The road surrounding the new bridge is to be reinforced so it can tolerate increased water levels on the north side.
The two sides "are suffering in different ways," Ms. Regalado said "The north side tends to have way too much water and not enough water is getting into Everglades National Park. Too dry and too wet are both problems. You can't say that one side has it worse than another.
"Water naturally flowed through the entire system. The Tamiami Trail has essentially cut off the flow of water from north to south to cause the Everglades to become much, much drier than it has been."
This is just one of many plans that have been created over the years to aid the flow of water through Tamiami Trail.
In recent years, a plan for an elevated 11-mile bridge was created, complete with an artist's rendering of a white skyway bridge. However, Ms. Regalado said the price tag would be "astronomical" at a time when Congress was asking for costs to be kept at a minimum. The Miccosukee Tribe also opposed the project, saying it would threaten Miami-Dade's water supply and the survival of tree islands central to the tribe's culture.
"The idea is that if we were to turn the whole Tamiami Trail into a bridge we could get more water under the Tamiami Trail and that would be a good thing," Ms. Regalado said.
Regardless, the lack of water has created changes to the ecosystem that the new project hopefully will reverse, she said.
Said Ms. Regalado: "It's been losing the characteristics that make it the Everglades."