Update, 6:13 p.m., April 19, 2017: University of Miami student leaders were misinformed about the status of the U.S. 1 pedestrian overpass, according to Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) spokesperson Karla Damian.
Construction on the project will be completed on schedule in late May or early June, and the bridge will be open to pedestrians when construction is complete, Damian said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held in the fall and is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13. Administration and student leaders were misinformed that pedestrians would not be able to use the bridge until after the ceremony.
Mariposa Court, which was closed and redesigned during construction, is expected to open by the end of this week.
Since 1989, three students have died and five have been seriously injured while crossing South Dixie Highway, adjacent to UM’s Coral Gables campus. Finally, a pedestrian bridge was built across the six-lane highway at Mariposa Court after years of lobbying, but now the project opening date has been pushed – yet again – until fall 2017.
Though the University of Miami is not directly involved in the project, administrators and students have pushed for the project since 2005, when freshman Ashley Kelly was struck and killed at the intersection. The day after Kelly’s death, Student Government (SG) passed a resolution calling for the construction of a pedestrian bridge.
Current SG President Vikesh Patel emphasized the need for a pedestrian bridge and said he is disappointed by the delay.
“I am upset to hear that the overpass will not be opening at the end of the spring 2017 semester,” Patel said. “However, I know come the start of the fall 2017 semester the overpass will be open and the ‘Cane community as well as others will be able to safely cross.”
The $6 million project was initially approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission in 2007, but budget issues halted the project. Further delays were caused by the owners of University Centre shopping complex’s refusal to take $1.8 million in exchange for five parking spaces which would be covered by the overpass.
Miami-Dade County took control of Mariposa Court from Coral Gables in 2013, which allowed plans for the project to continue. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in April 2015 and construction of the overpass began five months later.
The project, originally planned to be completed in summer 2016, was tentatively scheduled to open this month according to a February email from Miami-Dade Transit spokeswoman Karla Damian. Now the opening date is uncertain once again.
The two towers on either side of the roadway containing stairs and elevators were built on site, and the bridge was built off site then hoisted into place in December. The towers are currently blocked with fences, and construction appears incomplete, with temporary wooden railings attached to the stairs.
The project also involved changes to the traffic pattern of Mariposa Court, which remains closed and blocked by construction equipment. The crosswalk across U.S. 1 at Mariposa Court will be closed once the pedestrian bridge opens.
According to a study conducted by Miami-Dade Transit, 1,300 people cross the busy roadway each day. Freshman Rachel Smith is one of those people, and said she feels unsafe crossing the street and looks forward to the opening of the bridge.
“It’s pretty dangerous crossing U.S. 1,” Smith said. “Cars clearly have one goal which is to get wherever they’re going as quickly as possible. They don’t care about the people trying to get a flurry from McDonald’s at midnight.”
TMH was unable to reach Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works for comment.