Miami-Dade County officials said a replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge will cost at least $90 million and take at least eight years, providing details in a presentation to Village of Key Biscayne elected officials Tuesday. The bridge, built in 1944, is one of three connecting Key Biscayne to the Miami mainland, and engineers have questioned its ability to withstand a major hurricane unscathed.
Meanwhile, some members of the Key Biscayne Village Council signaled openness to a courtesy meeting with leaders of the Plan Z project after the privatization proposal was scuttled in January. The idea of a public meeting came from Council Member Ed London, who said the group had approached him recently.
After the Plan Z solicitation was shelved, the Miami-Dade County Commission directed staff to prioritize replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge at the urging of District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado.
But even with priority status, a new bridge will take years, perhaps as long as a decade, a senior County official said.
Ryan Fisher, the manager of highway bridge engineering for the County, said the long timetable reflects the reality of replacing a bridge that is located near several parks and contains a unique marine environment.
“It’s not a small project and it’s in an environmentally sensitive area with corals and sea grasses,” Fisher said in response to questions from Key Biscaye council members. The construction process requires federal environmental approval. He said the hope is to have the award made by the Spring of 2026, with a two- to three-year building process.
Among the details to be studied would be building temporary structures to keep traffic flowing while new spans are constructed.
Council members also asked about the status of the West Bridge, the short span running from the Causeway toll plaza to narrow Hobe Island. Fisher said the County will evaluate the underwater pilings supporting that structure, built about the same time as the Bear Cut. The larger and taller Powell Bridge recently underwent a regular maintenance update, he said.
The Plan Z Consortium’s “unsolicited proposal” concept ran into opposition over fears it didn’t do enough to address traffic and safety concerns. Even minor accidents on the roadway can snarl traffic for hours.
Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has said the County will go back to the drawing board on a new Rickenbacker project that will be based on community input. But the Bear Cut synopsis outlined Tuesday did not go into any details about bike lanes, linear parks, or other features that might be part of a revised Causeway proposal.
Enter Ed London, who informed his colleagues he had a meeting with architect Bernard Zyscovich’s team. London said the group wants to hold a community forum on the island.
“They feel they were blindsided,” said London, who speculated the Plan Z group would likely be the frontrunner in a new solicitation.
“Don’t you think we ourselves and the community should know what they proposed?” he asked, saying Zyscovich is now free from the County’s “cone of silence” secrecy rules.
Council Member Frank Caplan said there would be no reason not to hear the group out, as the Village did years ago when the Plan Z concept was first being outlined. “A lot of time passed and a lot of secrecy occurred,” Caplan said.
Council member Luis Lauredo said nothing is stopping the group from renting a meeting space, but said he disagreed with offering a forum at Village expense.
“Clearly they were not friendly to us. That would be a diplomatic term.”
Mayor Mike Davey said he was on the fence.
Manager Steve Williamson said a meeting with Zyscovich would make sense only after the Village has finalized its own priorities for the Rickenbacker renovation. He said that review, which has included public meetings, is well underway and could be ready by summer.
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.