Overcast with rain showers at times. High 77F. Winds ENE at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 60%..
Cloudy with occasional light rain. Low 73F. Winds E at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 70%.
Updated: January 8, 2022 @ 2:29 am
Noting that “big infrastructure takes a while,” Village Manager Steve Williamson on Friday said he appreciates seeing how the potential replacement of the Bear Cut Bridge, along with other Rickenbacker Causeway issues, are being handled as a whole.
“I’m not surprised, not at all,” Williamson said. “We’ve been seeing positive movement for quite awhile.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, representing Key Biscayne in District 7, has now sponsored a resolution directing County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava or her designee to prioritize the replacement of Bear Cut Bridge by providing a plan within 60 days of the Feb. 1 date on the legislative item (File No. 213133).
Her action comes on the heels of last month’s recommendation by Mayor Cava to rescind the current procurement efforts that calls for bidders to challenge the Plan Z Consortium public-privatization proposal, which includes an array of safety improvements, new amenities, as well as replacement of Bear Cut Bridge and repairs to the William Powell Bridge.
But the process itself has been constantly questioned by skeptical Village leaders and residents.
Regalado told the Islander News on Thursday that the current RFP, “as currently structured, has produced confusion and heartburn for a number of stakeholders.” This is why she said she is taking the direct route to get the wheels in motion for what should be a lengthy process to protect the only road access to Key Biscayne.
Federal funding also could be involved for Bear Cut, practically eliminating the bulk of the cost of the reported nearly $500 million of the entire proposal that the RFP entails.
“We were very pleased with the Mayor’s thoughtful (self-commissioned) review in November showing that it’s not the best value for money,” Williamson said. “And we really appreciate Commissioner Regalado on her recommendation to the Mayor to rescind this process and involve all the key stakeholders (the next time around), and now we’re very appreciative to see her wanting to prioritize Bear Cut Bridge.
“We’ve all been watching this (unfold). It’s been very positive for us. We, as a Village, stand by this; we wanted (the RFP) to be canceled all along, and still stand by that.”
Bear Cut Bridge, a .4 mile-long structure originally built in 1944, has undergone repairs in 1983 and 2013, and is currently on track for more work next year. But, Regalado said that might not be in the best financial interest for Miami-Dade County, which could be in line for federal funding from at least two sources.
“I have no idea how the financial structure (would involve Key Biscayne),” Williamson said, noting the 60-day window to lay out the plan would be of high interest.
Replacing Bear Cut Bridge comes at an estimated cost of $310 million, reports show.
“We all know it’s an old bridge,” said Williamson, a former officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will not be part of this project. “Bear Cut Bridge is a critical infrastructure that needs to be addressed … The priority was to make sure we do it the right way, and that’s essential.
“I’m not a bridge engineer, but I know it’s a tough area to do construction. But, whoever’s selected, just know there are a lot of good bridge people out there.”
Earlier estimations called for construction to begin not before 2026, but only if timelines and design approvals are met. For now, officials say the bridge is “structurally safe.”
As far as other parts of the 5.4-mile Rickenbacker Causeway that require a second look at safety, repairs and improvements could ultimately be done to the William Powell Bridge, as well as safety projects for bicyclists and pedestrians, starting at MAST Academy – a project Regalado also is trying to push forward and which may one day include a crossover.
Regalado’s resolution regarding Bear Cut possibly could be placed on the first County Commission meeting of 2022, scheduled for Jan. 19.
“Big infrastructure takes a while, and this is certainly what we’d call big infrastructure,” Williamson said. “We all appreciate the focus. Commissioner Regalado is fast-tracking it, but infrastructure (process) is not easy … we just want to make sure we do it right.”