Reimagining Miami’s Waterfront Speedway as a Street for People

For three weeks, parking lots along Miami's Biscayne Boulevard were transformed into public space. Photo via Modern Cities
For three weeks, parking lots along Miami's Biscayne Boulevard were transformed into public space. Photo via Modern Cities

Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard is eight roaring lanes of traffic cutting off downtown from the waterfront.

But maybe not for long. In what could be a transformative project, Miami is looking to convert this surface speedway into a walkable boulevard, reports the Jacksonville-based blog Modern Cities. The city recently received a $422,000 Florida DOT grant to study the removal of some traffic lanes.

As part of that effort, the Downtown Development Authority and the Knight Foundation recently teamed up to temporarily transform a large parking area along Biscayne Boulevard into a public space called “Biscayne Green.” It looks like it was an enormous success, Modern Cities writes:

Each day, visitors could experience the space as a passive user engaging with a dog park, outdoor lounge, children’s playground or a large flex field. Other users were attracted to Biscayne Green by participating in events ranging from food festivals, concerts, physical fitness classes, outdoor movie nights and coworking and networking events.

Organizers hoped to provide an interactive sneak peek into the future of downtown Miami, a future that features a highly functional, walkable environment that meets the needs of Miami’s Central Business District and waterfront. Instead of Biscayne Boulevard serving as a barrier, downtown stakeholders are interested in improving connectivity by constructing a permanent promenade to serve as a destination for residents, workers and visitors.

Christina Crespi, deputy director of the Downtown Development Authority, told Modern Cities about how the temporary public space is connected to a long-term plan:

The goal was to elevate the conversation about the importance of transforming our signature thoroughfare from barrier to destination, making downtown a more walkable, accessible, connected and inviting place to be. Allowing people to witness what it means to prioritize people over cars, and to experience the boulevard like they’ve never done before in order to get a sneak peek of what the future of Downtown could hold was in part a way to influence the change that needs to take place. Being able to see the community response to the public spaces and events planned as part of Biscayne Green are a true reflection of the desires of the local community. Gathering the necessary support from residents and community leaders is key to move the project forward.

Biscayne Green is one of a number of projects proposed and underway by the Miami DDA to make Downtown more livable and walkable. These include a $13MM revitalization project to widen sidewalks and improve streetscapes along the Historic Flagler Street in the heart of downtown’s Central Business District; Baywalk, a linear bike and pedestrian corridor path spanning the perimeter of Biscayne Bay from the CBD to Brickell; and a Complete Streets initiative to transform the SE/SW 1st Street corridor between SW 2nd Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard into a multimodal street that provides transit priority and accommodates all street users, including cyclists, in a safe and comfortable manner.

Here’s a look at what the permanent redesign of Biscayne Boulevard might entail:

04 01 2016 BG -Application Biscayne Boulevard Lane Elimination Analysis-X2

More recommended reading today: The State Smart Transportation Campaign tries to isolate the factors that explain America’s rising traffic fatality rate. And Bikemore reports that Baltimore weakened its snow clearance policy for bike lanes on the eve of today’s big snowstorm.

  • Charles Siegel

    They should consider widening the sidewalks instead of having such a wide median. The sidewalks are more likely to be used.

  • Vooch

    indeed – medians ( divided streets ) tend to encourage excessive motor speeds.

  • AMH

    Yes, couldn’t they shove the moving lanes together to make a larger contiguous parkspace?

  • bobfuss

    Would make the highway tougher to cross as a pedestrian. A median at least provides a safe resting place half way across. And, if wider, a place to linger

  • nikromatt

    That is a typical FDOT response. Automotive traffic can and should be stopped long enough for pedestrians & cycling traffic to completely cross the entire intersection. A minute to a minute and half is not too long for damn car to wait for for a person to cross the street.

  • bobfuss

    If that were the only factor, then sure. But throughput and capacity is also a consideration for any DOT. So the result is always a compromise between what different factions seek.

  • nikromatt

    “throughput and capacity” are the exact mentality and design standard that has built the dangerous roads we are struggling to repair today. Nowhere in any Constitution are any automobile drivers guarantee free and unimpeded travel. If they were, I think many more people would be opting for others forms of transportation.

  • bobfuss

    I never said it was a constitutional right. But it is what the voters want, and so our authorities have to balance that against other factors. And the success of the economy depends on large numbers of people and large amounts of goods to be efficiently moved about.

  • FlamingoFresh

    Biscayne Blvd’s wide alignment extends much further than proposed project area. Therefore a complete change in roadway alignment would be necessary in order to bring together the NB and SB lanes, a cost far more greater than what they have currently proposed.

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