Earlier this month a $14.2 millionin Miami killing six and injuring ten people. Immediately, new articles sprang up trying to figure out the cause, such as , , and countless others. I’ll leave it to the structural engineers and the courts to sort out the cause of the bridge collapse.
When I first saw the photos and video, I thought the pedestrian bridge was over a highway. As more photos became available, I realized this was a bridge over with traffic lights and crosswalks. The real problem this street functions as a highway that prioritizes motor vehicles over people. If we can change our mindset to prioritize people, can reduce the roadway footprint and reduce our infrastructure needs.
From what I can tell on Google street view, the street is about 10 lanes wide (8 travel lanes, 1 hashed area the width of a lane, and 2 bike lanes that equal 1 travel lane) plus a median. Based on data from the the Average Annual Daily Traffic on the street was 66,500 vehicles, which is about the same volume as between Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road which has 6 lanes plus a median.*
After the investigations are finished, there is the question to rebuild the bridge. Rather than rebuild, FIU and FDOT should consider other options thatSW 8 Street on a . All the cross-sections are looking westbound. Some options they could consider, not necessarily mutually exclusive.
- Widen the median: It appears that the westbound lane had a double left turn at one point. Rather than narrow the roadway it looks like the lane was removed by hashing. Given the space available, they could reorganize the roadway, so the median is equal to the current median and the hashed travel lane or about 16 feet. It would create a pedestrian refuge. Below is a cross-section that I mocked up that maintains the existing number of travel lanes.
- Install protected bike lanes: From the Google aerial, it appears there are bike lanes on both sides of the street. The speed limit is 40 miles per hour, which means people are probably driving closer to 50-60 mph. For even the most fearless of cyclists, that is terrifying. They could consider installing a on the south side of the street or on both sides of the street. Below is an example of a two-way cycle track
- Increase public transit: The operates every half hour. The has three bus routes that serve the university even at their peaks they are about every 30 minutes. While the system is free, 30-minute headways are not ideal for encouraging ridership. FIU could work with Sweetwater and Miami-Date Transit to develop a robust public transit system that benefits the university and residents. For the illustrative, I repurposed two travel lanes for bus only lanes and added in a bus shelter.
- Create people friendly public space: The sidewalks are right at the curb, which means people are walking right next to the roadway. In addition, there is very little shade along the sidewalk. Even with the location of the utility poles on the south side of the street, it is possible to create a grass median between the curb and a wider sidewalk as well as adding trees to add more shade. On the north side, it is possible to add a sidewalk and shade trees to make the linear park something more special that how it is today. If the roadway is narrower by a lane, that space could be added to the linear park. For the illustrative, I kept the cycle-track, narrowed the inside lanes to 10 feet and reduce the capacity from 7 travel lanes to 5. I left the outside lanes 11 feet to accommodate public transit.
These are some ideas based on doing a digital tour on the site. After the investigations conclude, hopefully, there will be consideration of turning SW 8 St into a boulevard that is a gateway to FIU and Sweetwater.
*Note: FDOT’s data is 2016 and District Department of Transportation’s data is 2015. The point of comparison is volume and number of lanes.