Residents Concerned Over Bridge to MetroRail & New Apartments

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The City of Miami Springs held an information session on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, covering three topics that will impact our community.  The three topics covered included (1) New MetroRail Bridge, (2) South Royal Poinciana Median Project, and (3) East Drive Drainage and Traffic Calming Project.

Guess which project had residents the most concerned?  The new pedestrian bridge that will connect the Ludlam Bike Path to the MetroRail had residents very concerned.

Residents expressed their concerns over adding a pedestrian bridge to the MetroRail.
Residents expressed their concerns over adding a pedestrian bridge to the MetroRail.
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Residents that don’t use MetroRail see only the negatives that the project will bring.  Proponents for the project only talk about the positives.  The reality is that this project has pros and cons.  Let’s discuss the good and bad about the project so that we can get a full understanding.

PROS OF BRIDGE – SAFETY – MOBILITY

As Mayor Maria Mitchell has repeated over and over, the bridge will provide safer passage from Hialeah to Miami Springs.  For decades pedestrians have been crossing from Hialeah to Miami Springs via the Florida East Coast railroad bridge.  The train bridge also crosses over Okeechobee Road.  Many pedestrians feel it’s safer to use the train bridge than cross busy intersection at Okeechobee Road and West 12th Avenue.

Map of Pedestrian Bridge from Miami Springs to Metrorail in Hialeah crossing the Miami River and US-27
Map of Pedestrian Bridge from Miami Springs to Metrorail in Hialeah crossing the Miami River and US-27

As Mayor Mitchell points out, pedestrians cross from Hialeah to Miami Springs and from Miami Springs to Hialeah all the time via the train tracks.  Clearly, that’s not safe, albeit there’s never been a reported incident of someone getting hurt or killed crossing at the tracks.

Metrorail Bridge

Mayor Mitchell wants to give the people who already cross via the train tracks a safer alternative to cross back and forth from Miami Springs to Hialeah with a new pedestrian bridge.  This will provide a safe, ADA compliant method of crossing from Hialeah into Miami Springs and vice versa.

Miami Springs Train Bridge over Miami Canal

The bridge will also invite more mobility allowing people who live, work, or go to school in Miami Springs easy access to Metrorail.  For example, the Miami Springs shuttle bus has a whole route that leaves Miami Springs to take passengers from Miami Springs to the Metrorail station at Hialeah Park.  Instead of wasting fuel and time taking passengers through Hialeah, the shuttle bus can spend more time in Miami Springs and drop off riders at the new pedestrian bridge near Ludlam and North Royal Poinciana Boulevard.

Another situation to consider is ADA compliance.  Someone in a wheelchair, powered scooter, or simply a mom with a baby stroller is not going to cross at the train tracks.  So, in this case they would have to traverse a block west to NW 12th Avenue.  So, we’re making a bridge to save people from walking a block?  Yes.  That’s true.  But let’s be honest.  Crossing Okeechobee isn’t something that is pedestrian friendly.  Okeechobee Road is notorious for vehicular accidents and pedestrian accidents.  The bridge not only saves “a block” but also the time waiting at the light and provides far safer passage.

One more benefit to consider.  Pedestrians, just like drivers, get stuck in Miami Springs whenever a train is passing.  With a pedestrian bridge, cyclists and walkers no longer have to stay put.  They can cross regardless of whether a train is passing or not.

To summarize the benefits:

  • Safety
  • Mobility
  • ADA Compliance

CONS OF BRIDGE – CRIME

The first thing residents are concerned about with this new bridge is an increase in crime.  The northwest corner of the bird section has always been a location where criminals could quickly commit a burglary or theft and then easily exit to Hialeah or Medley.  Criminals still have an easy exit route at this corner, except instead of having 2 options (South River Drive and the FEC train bridge) they’ll have 3 options to exit (South River Drive, FEC Bridge, and the new Pedestrian Bridge) for easy exits.

Miami Springs Train

Will crime go up?  None of us have a crystal ball, but if you add a pedestrian friendly bridge from Hialeah to Miami Springs, you will undoubtedly get more foot and bicycle traffic from Hialeah into Miami Springs.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Miami Springs is a far more beautiful and more pedestrian friendly neighborhood than Hialeah.  This bridge will attract Hialeah residents and employees to cross the bridge to enjoy a walk or bike ride in our neighborhood.

Most of these people will be family friendly folks who just want to enjoy the beautiful amenities our neighborhood offers.  Moms with their children.  Men and women who want to jog in our neighborhood.  Cyclists who want to get away from the concrete jungle of Hialeah.  And teenagers who want to get out of their house.  But with that increase in volume you also get the trouble maker and opportunist.  The punk who sees a big Amazon box on your front porch they can easily pickup and walk away with on the bridge.  Or the trouble maker who’s bored and decides they want to tag Miami Springs with graffiti.

Again, most people in Hialeah are hard working, family oriented folks.  But it’s a numbers game.  As we invite Hialeah residents to enjoy our pedestrian paths and cyclist friendly streets via the pedestrian bridge, we’ll inevitably get additional crime.

Our amazing Miami Springs Police Department is stretched thin.  They are constantly tasked to respond to the hotels on LeJeune and NW 36th Street.  Now, here’s one more thing that they’ll need to handle.

CONS OF BRIDGE – NEW DENSE HOUSING

We control what we put on the Miami Springs side of the bridge, but we don’t control what’s on the other side.  And the other side is quickly changing.  According to an article by Miami Springs resident, Theo Karantsalis, and published in The Miami HeraldHialeah has rezoned the warehouse district surrounding the Hialeah Metrorail station to allow for mixed use development.  According to the article, there’s already plans for a 250 unit apartment complex called “Metro Grande” that will be built atop the 3.5 acre parking lot across from the Metrorail Station.  To quote Theo’s article, the units will be priced from “extremely low-income up to market rate units.”

Map of the Okeechobee Metrorail station and surrounding warehouse district
Map of the Okeechobee Metrorail station and surrounding warehouse district

Look at the map above.  Where would you rather go for a stroll or a bike ride if you lived in these new apartments?  The concrete jungle that surrounds you or the lush green and inviting beautiful Miami Springs?

MetroRail at Coral Gables

Above is a picture of a high end residential tower being constructed at the Metrorail station located at the intersection of US-1 and SW 37th Avenue at the edge of Coral Gables.  Miami-Dade County is encouraging more residential development around the Metrorail stations.  It’s safe to say we can see more residential development happening across the bridge surrounding the Okeechobee Metrorail station.

MetroRail Apartment in Coral Gables

CONS OF BRIDGE – PARKING

The City of Miami Springs says it will not allow parking along the canal.  It will install No Parking signs (more sign pollution) along the accessible area shown below to prevent people from “Park and Ride.”  This will also have the unintended consequence of stopping the decades old practice of people who park their car or truck at the canal to go fishing.  (We’re going to give you X, but we’re taking away Y.)

The City of Miami Springs says they will also have to put No Parking signs (more sign pollution) around Sunset Park.  You can see in the picture below by the lack of greenery where people park all the time to access Sunset Park.  This includes people who bring their kids to ride bikes, people who launch canoes and kayaks at the canal, and people who go fishing at the canal.  (Full disclosure:  The author has parked his truck at this park to enjoy cycling, fishing, and kayaking from this park.  I’m not happy about the City saying I can’t park there anymore.  The Ludlam Canal is much better for kayaking than the Miami River.)

If people are banned from parking at Sunset or near the Miami River, they can still park in front of someone’s home (albeit illegally) or on the other west of the train tracks.  Only time will tell what the usage actually looks like.

What’s more, who’s going to enforce No Parking?  The Miami Springs Police Officers busy responding to a human trafficker or carjacker on 36th Street?  Wouldn’t we prefer traffic enforcement over parking citations?

CONS OF BRIDGE

To summarize the negatives:

  • Crime
  • Increased pedestrian traffic from Hialeah
  • Eliminating parking access to Sunset Park and the Miami River Canal Bank
  • Putting more demand on our Police force

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do the benefits of mobility, safety, and compliance outweigh the negatives of increased pedestrian traffic, parking problems, closing existing parking access, and increasing crime?

Let us know what you think?  We want to hear what additional pros and cons you have for this project?  Will the project be a net positive or negative for the community.

We invite your respectful and thoughtful commentary.

 

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