Updated Apr 15, 2024 - News

How Rickenbacker Causeway work caused Sunday's traffic chaos

Illustration of a road barrier with lightning bolts for stripes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Less than 24 hours after the flyover bridge leaving the Rickenbacker Causeway closed for maintenance, the northbound lane was back open, with the southbound lane expected to fully reopen by Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Sunday's closure of the flyover bridge connecting westbound traffic to US-1 and I-95 caused a bottleneck of hundreds of cars attempting to leave the island Sunday afternoon that dragged on well into the evening.

  • Many drivers and residents took to social media Sunday to complain about the hourslong delays and lack of communication.

Catch up fast: The Florida Department of Transportation announced the closures on March 28 and issued a follow-up announcement Friday.

  • The closures were expected to last about two months.

By the numbers: A typical drive from the Village of Key Biscayne's entrance to Miami City Hall is about 20 minutes.

  • On Sunday, that drive took some drivers between three and seven hours.

Friction point: Despite complaints directed to local governments, Key Biscayne and Miami officials blamed FDOT.

  • Key Biscayne Mayor Joe Rasco said on Instagram Sunday evening that while FDOT officials were told that a "total closure of ramps would be a serious problem, we were assured it had been studied and was under control. Clearly, it is not."
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez responded on X to complaints and stressed that the bridge was shut down by FDOT, not the city. "We are doing everything we can do to flush the traffic out of Key Biscayne."

What they're saying: In a statement to Miami New Times, FDOT said the original plan was "developed with all the factors considered, [but] it was overwhelmed with the volume of vehicles" leaving the Key on Sunday.

Reality check: Even the Miami Police Department appeared caught off guard, telling NBC 6 Sunday the department was "setting up a plan to assist with traffic [and] there is no event or incident that we are aware of."

  • "It appears that the ramp onto I-95 is closed due to work and it's caused this traffic."

💭 My thought bubble: I was on Key Biscayne Sunday and planned to leave around 5:30pm — until Google Maps informed me it would take roughly 2.5 hours to get to I-95. Luckily, I was at my friends' house, so I waited to depart until about 9pm.

  • I made it about two blocks before hitting a gridlock and turning around to stay at my friends' for the night.

What's next: It's unclear when the project will resume, but FDOT told the New Times it "will inevitably cause disruption to typical travel patterns."

  • The agency said it would work with local stakeholders to develop a revised plan.
  • In a statement to Axios, the Village said local governments expect to be informed by FDOT "as soon as decisions have been made about the entire project approach and timeline."
  • A petition to delay construction until after the school year ends at the start of June had more than 2,100 signatures early Monday afternoon.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional information from the Florida Department of Transportation.

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