The upcoming Brickell Avenue resurfacing project has been an enlightening experience for Transit Miami. Through this process we have discovered that FDOT is broken. Let’s use our recent experience to illustrate some fundamental problems with FDOT.

We first found out about the Brickell Avenue resurfacing project in August. I contacted FDOT and they provided me with their design plans. I then proceeded to take a field trip with two FDOT engineers on Brickell Avenue to discuss other improvements which they had not considered. This was just the beginning of the battle for a ped-friendly Brickell.

The Transit Miami led coalition has worked very hard to raise awareness about this project. Together with organizations like the South Florida Bicycle Coalition, we have made a concerted effort to reach out to all the major Brickell Avenue stakeholders. We meet with the Brickell Area Association, the Brickell Homeowners Association, and the Miami Downtown Development Authority. We then personally sat down with Mayor Regalado, Commissioner Sarnoff, and Representative Luis Garcia to talk about our efforts.

Now it seems that everyone’s collaborative hard work may pay off. Two weeks ago the Miami Herald covered this very important story and this past weekend the Miami Herald Editorial Board wrote a piece in support of ped-friendly improvements to Brickell Avenue.

FDOT seems to be slowly reacting.  How much they will do is still unknown.  Apparently, sufficient pressure has been placed on FDOT to motivate them to at least listen to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, this was only accomplished because of the initial efforts of  the Transit Miami coalition with the help of the greater Brickell community.  We engaged as many stakeholders as possible and built consensus. This took a lot of time and effort on our part, but we love a good fight and made plenty of new friends along the way.

Herein lies the problem with FDOT. Why does it take an entire community to beg for overdue improvements?  Shouldn’t FDOT have been proactive and taken the initiative to introduce improvements from the beginning? Why didn’t FDOT reach out to the community to get their input?

Together we will make a difference on Brickell Avenue, but only because so many people are directly affected by this poorly designed road. It was relatively easy to engage the community because so many residents and businesses inhabit this corridor. In areas that are less urbanized it will be more difficult for advocates to garner a critical mass of people to convince FDOT to design roads for all users. FDOT should lead the charge to design complete streets, not Transit Miami.  As much as we would like to, we cannot oversee every FDOT project.

It is the intentionally decentralized nature of FDOT that makes it so difficult to work with this agency.  The only way to fix FDOT is to have a FDOT Secretary in Tallahassee that works to change how things get done. Will Governor Rick Scott make this necessary change? I sure hope so. If not, FDOT will remain broken.

Perhaps FDOT engineers should read this article Confessions of a Recovering Engineer. It’s not about speed, it’s about safety.

If you would like a safer Brickell Avenue, please sign this letter and feel free to send it directly to FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus.Pego@DOT.STATE.FL.US.

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