The William Powell bridge to Virginia Key, July 27, 2022. The Village of Key Biscayne is proposing its own plan to reduce traffic conflict points that calls for express lanes on Virginia Key. (KBI Photo/Theo Miller)
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After months of work and conversations with stakeholders on and off the island, Key Biscayne Manager Steve Williamson is ready to present a plan that creates express lanes for Key Biscayne as part of what a reimagined Rickenbacker should look like. 

The concept — laid out in 180 pages — focuses on transportation, resiliency, and separating vehicles from bicycles and pedestrians. Notably, it does not cover costs, tolls, funding or project management, but instead analyzes how traffic should best be managed. A public presentation is set for Tuesday. 

Williamson has already briefed Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other top county officials. He said the County was impressed with the depth and scope and said leaders made a promise that any new Rickenbacker plan will be a shared undertaking with the village.

2022.08.09_Rickenbacker_Comprehensive by Tony Winton on Scribd

“The mayor has committed to a joint master plan,” Williamson said. “This is right on,” he quoted her as saying after the briefing earlier this month. 

Mayor Mike Davey called the concept “a great starting point” and said the feedback from both Levine Cava and Commissioner Raquel Regalado has been strongly positive. 

The main focus: reducing traffic and safety problems on Virginia Key, while building a new Bear Cut bridge and overpasses that will withstand rising seas. 

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The document highlights the need for traffic planners to envision a world where there will be large and regular special events on Virginia Key.

“Tens of thousands may be on the island simultaneously,” says one graphic depicting everything from MAST to the Seaquariam to a redeveloped Marine stadium and Marina. 

To speed traffic, the Williamson concept creates a system of “local” and “express” lanes on Virginia Key. New “loop” roads would be used to turn traffic around and handle vehicle queuing. The express lanes will send Key Biscayne cars flying over the local traffic at loops. There would be twin overpasses at the north and south ends of Virginia Key. 

The express lane idea is not new, but it is is a notable difference from the Plan Z approach set forth in an unsolicited proposal made last year, Davey said. The County Commission terminated that RFP process, and Levine Cava said a new causeway plan would involve consultation with the village and other stakeholders. 

In this undated graphic, a concept for an electronic roadway sign being proposed by the village of Key Biscayne as part of improvements to the Rickenbacker Causeway. (KBI photo via Village of Key Bicayne)

“They did a very thoughtful analysis and they were trying to find a result for everyone,” Davey said. “Express lanes is something that I have advocated from the beginning.” 

Among other considerations in the concept:

  • A taller Bear Cut Bridge to help reroute traffic and use bridge abutments to manage cars
  • Information signs to manage Park Traffic 
  • Elevate the Virginia Key road by three feet, an idea also in the Plan Z unsolicited proposal to improve drainage to prevent “alligator” roadway cracks
  • Redirect roadway drainage into wetlands for better filtering before water returns to Biscayne Bay to address pollution concerns. 
  • New traffic barriers to reduce risk of collisions
  • Expand the existing bike paths in Crandon Park to move cyclist traffic into safer areas
  • Connect new bike paths with ongoing development for the Underline, Commodore Trails and Baywalk projects 

Williamson has briefed members of council and the Tuesday session will kick off another round of community input before drawings are taken to the next step. 

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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.

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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...