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Key Biscayne’s summer of discontent is finally over – sort of.

The brand new $484,000 right-turn lane from Crandon Boulevard onto Harbor Drive opened for business on Sept. 25 after months of construction that sometimes snarled traffic all the way to the Rickenbacker Marina. 

“Everyone has mentioned how much it has improved traffic in the mornings,” said Public Work Director Cairo Cangas.

The right-turn lane has been the focal point of frequent critics of Village administration who want to delay much more expensive construction projects – such as the “big dig” to replace the island’s outdated stormwater system.

“The Village should learn how to walk before it runs,” former Council Member Ignacio Segurola said at a Sept. 19 meeting of the Key Biscayne Neighborhood Association. “I think it needs to finish that right-turn lane. I think it needs to learn how to run projects. I think it needs to deliver projects on time.”

For all the derision, the Village says the project was practically delivered on time – but with a caveat: the lane is open, but work still has to be done. The project revealed some conduits that carry wiring underneath need to be replaced, said Public Work Director Cairo Cangas – meaning there still will be days when the intersection is partially closed.

The project was not just a headache for drivers – but the Village, as well. One thing is for certain, adding a lane on a major surface street is not just a matter of throwing some asphalt down – especially when the road is not owned by the Village but by Miami-Dade County.

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There were permitting snags and problems with uncharted underground utilities. Cangas said that a utility box ended up upending drainage plans that necessitated a work-around – and more permitting. Even Hurricane Idalia delayed work as a matter of precaution – though the storm ended up hitting the Big Bend area of the state. 

Cangas said the Village will end up only paying $25,193 of the total costs after getting reimbursed by the County.

The new lane comes on line just as the construction project at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church is done. As a result, the Village Council took a wait-and-see approach on whether to address the dreaded traffic circle on Harbor Drive, deferring $250,000 from the new budget just approved.

“You’re dealing with behaviors. How do people adjust to the right turn lane? How do people adjust with the new ingress and egress of St. Agnes?” said Council Member Allison McCormick at Tuesday night’s budget meeting. “It makes sense to give it a little time to settle, to really observe how people use the area.”

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.