Key Biscayne Mayor Joe Rasco says the Village is moving forward on one of his main campaign promises: repairing and eventually replacing the aging Bear Cut Bridge.
Rasco, this week’s guest on the Anti-Social podcast, is nearly halfway into his two-year term and is well on his way to accomplishing the agenda he spelled out in the 2022 campaign.
Key Biscayne has a new Strategic Vision Plan that spells out how to control growth while seeing a future where the Village has a walkable retail district. On Tuesday, the Council approved a key component to the $250 million infrastructure plan to combat sea level rise by approving an engineering firm that will oversee the project.
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When it comes to the Bear Cut Bridge – one of three spans that connect Key Biscayne to the mainland – Rasco said that the effort to renovate and eventually replace it is moving in the right direction. It is all about the good relationship with Miami-Dade County – something that has not always been historically the case, he said.
“What I said during the campaign is we need to be at the table and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Rasco said.
Planning Director Jeremy Calleros Gauger sits on a committee to help forge what the master plan for the causeway will be.
Rasco said the Village has been working with Mayor Daniella Cava and Commissioner Raquel Regalado, whose district includes the island. “Those factors are helping us in the conversation,” he said.
So what is the plan for the Bear Cut?
“There’s a short-term thing that you’re going to see shortly, which is that it’s going to get a 10-year upgrade,” he said.
The next step is to secure funding for the replacement. That entails performing a Project Development and Environment Study for the Florida Department of Transportation and trying to secure federal dollars by complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Estimated costs for repairs are $2.5 million, while the replacement – which is years away – has been estimated at $90 million. The Bear Cut Bridge was built in 1944 and engineers have expressed concern that it could not stand a major hurricane.
Rasco has lived on Key Biscayne for north of 40 years and was a founding member when the city incorporated in 1991. He became mayor with nearly two thirds of the vote at a time where Key Biscayne politics often reflected national divisions.
The mayor said he aims to build consensus and to make sure everyone is heard that comes before the Council.
“If I can use the sports analogy, I look at myself as a point guard out there and I distribute the ball,” he said. “Like a quarterback also, I don’t have to score. I don’t need to have massive dunks. I’m going to be the person that helps lead us forward.”
On Anti-Social, Rasco addresses the current budget, preemption by the state that erodes the Village’s autonomy and iguanas – on Tuesday he invited a reptile expert to address the Council on Tuesday.
“People are concerned about the iguanas and I did hear stories about people – whose names obviously I won’t mention – were using these little pop guns to take care of the iguanas in their backyard,” Rasco said. “People just get frustrated after a certain period of time.”