Ongoing issues with traffic lights synchronization and traffic congestion along some of Miami Beach’s busiest corridors are concerning residents, as it appears there not much the city can do.
The North Shore District suffers a convergence of several streets into a very significant bottleneck, said Rabbi Eliot H. Pearlson from Temple Menorah in North Beach, including Collins Avenue and Indian Creek, going northbound; Harding and Dickens avenues, southbound; and 71st Street to Normandy Drive, eastbound and westbound.
Other choke points include the 63rd Street Bridge/Allison Island Draw Bridge; Collins Avenue, Indian Creek and 63rd Street meeting point; Indian Creek, Dickens and Collins avenues and 71st Street; the Bay Drive and 71st Street intersection; Normandy Square, on Normandy Drive and 71st Street; and Biarritz Drive and Normandy Drive.
Changes and major developments in the North Shore area, which include seven new schools and five new houses of worship, are contributing to the congestion, Rabbi Pearlson said. “Although FDOT did significant research, their findings are no longer viable because of these major changes in the last 10 years.”
Each one of the schools that opened in the past 10 years – including Gan Katan Preschool, Ohev Shalom Preschool, Kids Choice Learning Center, Montessori School of Miami Beach, and others – “causes significant traffic (in rush hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.) because parents need to drop their kids off and retrace their steps on the same roads to get to work,” he said.
These issues with traffic occur “at least 12 times a week,” Rabbi Pearlson said. Traffic congestion makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to respond on time.
In addition, traffic lights are not synchronized, despite efforts by the city to urge Miami-Dade County to take the lead.
Late last year, the city asked the county to update traffic signals at intersections along 41st Street, Collins Avenue, and other areas, to help mitigate traffic. Automatic pedestrian phases at signalized intersections give “30 seconds or more” to pedestrians waiting to cross the streets from east to west, and vice versa, said Jose Gonzalez, city transportation and mobility director.
That automatic pedestrian phase proved “detrimental to traffic flow in both directions,” the director said at the time.
But “we’ve complained about this (synchronization) so many times, and the complaints fall of deaf ears,” said Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.
The traffic signal system is controlled by the county, said Joe Gomez, Miami Beach public works director. The county has engaged with consultants, including planning and design engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates, which the city also uses for its local city projects and for studies on traffic signal coordination on its key intersections, particularly in high-impact times.
The city has an agreement with the county on some key intersections, including 41st Street, 63rd Street, and Collins Avenue, and Kimley-Horn and Associates has indicated that 41st Street traffic lights are synchronized and that the issues seen are based on “capacity concerns, the number of vehicles traversing around,” said Rickelle Williams, assistant city manager.
“There is only so much we can do within our city to address traffic, when we are tied to the hands of the county and the state,” said Commissioner Alex Fernandez. “[The county and the state must] get this under control and solve the issues with their coordination.”
He said the city should file a complaint with the state’s and the county’s inspector generals, “because enough is enough.”
Aside from traffic light synchronization, Rabbi Pearlson recommended the city ask the Florida Department of Transportation to revisit its traffic study and the city conduct a new one, revisiting “failed traffic-calming changes” to lanes; pass and enforce fines for delivery trucks illegally parking and blocking lanes; install and use traffic cameras to fine drivers for gridlock infractions; restrict scooters in bike lanes; and buy four to six “ambu-cycles,” ambulance motorcycles ridden by emergency medical technicians (EMTs), during high-traffic periods in congested areas.
Although they cannot transport patients, EMTs on these ambu-cycles could medically stabilize a patient in incidents of cardiac arrect, hemostasis, overdose and other emergencies. United Hatzalah Emergency Medical Services, Rabbi Pearlson said, has offered to train and supply a response team.
The city has also requested its administration to study the feasibility of hiring public service aides or specialized traffic control officers to direct and control traffic on-site along the busiest corridors.
The county commission has asked its staff for a detailed report regarding all traffic synchronization countywide. Miami Beach Commissioner Steven Meiner said he is going to ask the city commission to pass a resolution that would ask the county for that report “in real time.”