Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is proposing a major makeover of Rickenbacker Causeway in a memo asking for bidders to renovate the roadway connecting Key Biscayne to the mainland.
In the memo, she says she wants a public RFP, or “request for proposal,” to compete with a so-far secret unsolicited proposal from the “Plan Z” consortium, led by architect Bernard Zyscovich. The proposal would also improve the Venetian Causeway.
The cyclist-friendly plan Z project for the Rickenbacker has been discussed for years, but it’s not clear to what extent the plan submitted to the County in March resembles concepts that have been shared publicly in the past.
The memo says the plan would replace the aging Bear Cut Bridge and increase “bicycle and pedestrian safety” as well as construct sea level rise and resiliency improvements. There were few details and no dollar figure was proposed.
In the past, other ideas for the causeway utilized increased toll revenue to cover project costs. But some have voiced concerns about making Viginia Key and Key Biscayne’s beaches too expensive for lower-income residents to access.
Cava’s memo describes the Zyscovich consortium’s idea as being “a compelling financial solution that would allow the County to move forward with the project under a public-private partnership.” So-called “P3” projects, which are sometimes controversial, allow private investors to make money in return for helping to build a public benefit infrastructure project.
Key Biscayne has long sought a new causeway to deal with traffic, safety, and recreation issues. Mayor Mike Davey says he had been talking to the Zyscovich group, but said he was caught by surprise by the item on the Thursday County Commission agenda.
“This is a good starting point,” Davey said of the proposal. “We are a stakeholder. We will have a seat at the table.”
Vice Mayor Ed London said he was caught off guard. “We didn’t know anything about it. It was from left field.” London suggested the Village ask for a postponement so it could weigh in. Davey said he will be speaking at the Commission meeting.
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Gene Stearns, an attorney and one of the founders of Key Biscayne, sounded a note of caution.
In essence, he said Cava is asking County staff to replicate a project no one has seen, then ask for competitive bidding and see if other bidders can do better than the consortium.
He agreed the Causeway needs to be redone, but said he is not a fan of the old Zyscovich proposal, saying it falls short of some island needs and is overly “cyclist heavy.”
One potential factor is timing, with hundreds of billions of new infrastructure dollars in Washington, D.C. being debated. Davey said he was hopeful that the overall political environment was shifting in favor of getting work done.
“We are going to get something worked out,” he predicted.