Massive Miami highway projects target congestion
By Marilyn Bowden
Several major road construction projects in progress or about to begin address chronic congestion around the county.
The largest, the 826-836 interchange improvement, a joint project of the Florida Department of Transportation and Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, has been under way since 2009 and is targeted for completion in the fall of 2015, said Oscar Gonzalez, the project's spokesperson.
"It's progressing well," he said. "We have opened up three of the 45 new bridges to traffic and expect to open more soon. Currently, we're in the process of building one of four huge segmental bridges."
Prefabricated segments of these bridges will be lifted into place by a giant gantry more than 450 feet long and weighing more than 400 tons, Mr. Gonzalez said. These will be the largest bridges ever attempted using this technology.
"We're going to have nightly closures on both sides in order to perform the overhead work safely," he said. "During the day, we'll keep the lanes open where they were before."
Mr. Gonzalez said the massive reconstruction project, part of the 12-part, $560 million Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) Improvement Program, is expected to enhance safety and reduce congestion for the 430,000 motorists who use the interchange every day.
The transportation department last week unveiled a program in which the state will pay commuters who daily enter the 826-836 area up to $75 per month to carpool in order to reduce traffic jams during the construction.
Completion of the Northwest 25th Street viaduct, which will separate cargo trucks en route to Miami International Airport's cargo facility from commuter traffic, will get going on May 14, Mr. Gonzalez said, at a cost of about $58 million.
"We were going to get started this month," he said, "but pushed it back because the way we are going to cover the canal has changed. Originally it was to be a bridge, but now it will be a culvert."
The tentative timeline for completion of the western side is 3.5 years.
When completed, Mr. Gonzalez said, the 1.27-mile viaduct will reach from Northwest 68th Avenue to Northwest 82nd Avenue, with road improvements continuing up to Northwest 89th Avenue.
Also under way is 95 Express Project Phase 2, which is in turn subdivided into four phases. The first phase, now wrapping up, included work on the outside shoulder areas of I-95 and the relocation of some existing utilities, intelligent transportation systems equipment and landscaping. In June, traffic will be shifted to the outside in order to begin work on the medians, part of the second phase, which was launched on Nov. 28, 2011, said Tish Burgher, 95 Express Phase 2 spokesperson.
The second phase will extend existing express lanes north from the Golden Glades Interchange to Broward Boulevard by converting the existing High Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV, lanes to two express lanes in each direction. It's anticipated to last through the spring of 2013.
The remaining two phases, which encompass further construction and Intelligent Transportation Systems work as well as conversion to electronic tolling, are targeted for completion by late 2014. Total cost of the 95 Express Project Phase 2, a partnership between state transportation department, the planning and transit departments of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, South Florida Commuter Services and Florida Turnpike Enterprise, is about $106 million.
A separate but related project involves roadwork at the Ives Dairy Road Interchange, Ms. Burgher said. It includes widening some exit and entrance ramps to I-95, modifications to allow more cars in turn lanes and repaving along the project's entire route, which runs from Northeast 16th Avenue just west of I-95 to Highland Lakes Boulevard just east of I-95.
She said the estimated timeline is about nine months, weather permitting. Cost is estimated at $7.5 million.
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