Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says a plan to privatize and renovate the Rickenbacker Causeway can be significantly changed, and also said she might support giving the Village of Key Biscayne a seat on a review committee that would evaluate competing bids.
“It has come up, whether the scope could change?” Levine Cava asked on the Anti-Social program Friday. She answered herself by saying that changes can indeed be made by the County Commission. Commissioner Sally Heyman, she mentioned, wants the Venetian Causeway renovation removed from the project.
The solicitation, called an RFP, is very specific regarding independent bike lanes and other features sought in the cyclist-friendly “Plan Z,” but is less specific about the William Powell Bridge and traffic improvements. The Village is hoping it will reduce frequent traffic jams on the roadway caused by events and will anticipate expected future development on Virginia Key.
As for Key Biscayne’s role, she said whether the Village or other municipalities get seats on the review panel depends on a legal determination of whether doing so would create a conflict of interest. “I am certainly open to their active participation in the selection.”
The secrecy provisions of the process may have put the municipalities under a “gag order,” according to Village officials — because bidders can be penalized for speaking to the Village about their ideas for the project. Levine Cava said she opposed some of the secrecy rules when she was a County commissioner, but insisted she is trying to make the procurement process as transparent as possible.
“I think that the RFP sets out a minimum,” Levine Cava said. “So, if someone wants to add something else, maybe it would be competitive in the bid process, and it could happen, perhaps.”
The Rickenabcker and Venetian Causeway renovation process was triggered when the Zyscovich Consortium submitted a secret “unsolicited proposal” under a law covering privatization projects. Bidders now have until Nov. 4 to make competing proposals.
As for the notion of privatization — instead of continuing the current County-managed system — Levine Cava said that private sector led projects can sometimes proceed more quickly even if overall costs are higher. Government borrowing to rebuild the Causeway would require a public vote on bonds — and the mayor noted that voters rejected borrowing to rebuild the shuttered County Courthouse. Other bond votes for schools and resilience projects have succeeded, however. One key factor will be tolls and how they can be kept low, possibly through concessions, she acknowledged.
“I am not a dyed-in-the-wool privatization person, by any means,” Levine Cava said. When asked if transportation agencies like the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority (MDX) or the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) might get involved, Levine Cava appeared to leave a door open for more direct government involvement.
“I would say that nothing is off the table,” the mayor said.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.