Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava insisted Monday she is keeping her options open about the future of the Rickenbacker Causeway during a virtual town hall, but hinted that one critical segment — the Bear Cut bridge — may get separate treatment. Meanwhile, the Plan Z Consortium appeared to offer an olive branch, saying it would accept major changes to its confidential proposal.
Levine Cava announced she is heading to Washington, D.C. to press for federal infrastructure funds on Tuesday, including the Rickebacker, which she again stated is a priority.
But the comments about a potential separate path for the Bear Cut appeared new.
“We have money set aside for the NEPA,” Levine Cava said, referring to a federally required planning process. “One thing that we are looking at is the possibility of proceeding just with that portion, even in advance of the rest.”
The notion of dealing with the 74-year-old Bear Cut Bridge separately from the rest of the Causeway is not new, but phasing the project or separating it from an overall Causeway plan could alter timetables and funding options significantly.
Most of the dollars flowing from the recently passed $350 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law flows via the states, which then decide which projects are funded, officials said. The mechanism, which uses a formula, led Commissioner Raquel Reglado to opine this week that the County’s chances of a large grant under it may be limited.
Other portions of the Infrastructure funds are directly awarded by the federal government — but they will be allocated on a competitive basis, according to a summary from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Levine Cava’s comment about doing planning work for the Bear Cut Bridge came as her administration weighed a big decision presented by financial consultants — whether to make major changes to the privatization plan — or start afresh. The Village of Key Biscayne has formally asked for the latter, saying the current plan needs to put safety and traffic first. So has Regalado. She said she would support a resolution to restart the project if the mayor recommended that path.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Plan Z Consortium wrote a five-page letter Monday in defense of their privatization proposal, saying they would accept amendments including an “overhead highway” that would stretch from the big William Powell bridge to Key Biscayne. It was a reversal by architect Bernard Zyscovich, who earlier told the County Commission that he parted ways with Village leaders over that concept.
The letter, which stated that initial toll increases would be limited to $2, argued that restarting the bidding process would “chill” future public-private partnerships, because confidential information might be disclosed to rivals who could “cheat off our test.”
On the Bear Cut, Levine Cava and county staff said the structure is safe, but engineers have questioned its ability to withstand intense hurricanes in the future. The Village of Key Biscayne, worried about the bridge washing out, initiated a plan in 2019 with County emergency managers to replace the bridge with floating, temporary spans if that were to happen.
Some 94 people logged into the town hall session, the mayor’s office said. There was a mix of comments about going forward with the plan — mostly from cycling advocates to residents who expressed various concerns about the current solicitation.
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.