If you’re a resident of South Florida, you’ve been subjected to a deluge of editorials and radio spots during the past several months discussing the I-395 “Signature” Bridge project, the centerpiece of which consists in the rebuilding of 1.4 miles of I-395 from the I-95/Midtown interchange to the west channel bridge of the MacArthur Causeway.
In case you’re not up to speed on the latest developments, a decision was made on May 12th by a Florida DOT panel to award the project to the joint venture of Archer Wester/The de Moya Group over four other bidders – a decision that was panned by local media because of its controversial selection process and its lack of local feedback at the hearing. Earlier this week, Miami-Dade commissioners voted unanimously to petition the Florida DOT to halt the awarding of the $800 million contract so that elected officials and residents could further debate the proposed designs.
And here we are, potentially facing an impasse and a delay of the project’s anticipated December 2017 start date.
To this point, the FDOT’s process hasn’t exactly been transparent- no member of the public or local government were able to view the competing proposals during the evaluation process due to FDOT’s procurement rules that they somehow imagine keeps lobbying out of the selection process Nor has it actually done much to consider the public input that FDOT initially asked for community input. Enough knowledgeable people did offer public comment, but why isn’t FDOT listening?
It can be argued that the FDOT already has some guilt to atone for in the area, as it had a hand in the urban decay that plagued Overtown for decades after it decided to build Interstate 95 right through its boundaries. Call me cynical, but I’m not the only one who thinks that the FDOT is effectively gaming the selection committee process to produce an outcome that it wants– remember, the FDOT promised the community it would be empowered to determine the aesthetics, and that never materialized Perhaps I’m really a hardened cynic, but could this actually be FDOT bureaucrats engaging in a bit of payback towards the community for having the nerve to go to court to ensure there would actually be a “signature” bridge built?
For my two pesos, I actually like the two designs of the bridge. But arguably just as important as the aesthetics of the project is the integrity of the process leading up to its selection, and while it’s impossible to satisfy every constituency group, it’s essential that what results from this process actually reflects the preferences of local residents through their elected officials.
This project will come at great public expense and take its place as a significant Miami landmark. Twenty years from now, Miamians don’t want to be talking derisively about the “Bridge from Tally”- how much more preferable would it be for this new landmark to have broad public input and support from the folks who will actually be crossing and admiring it every day?
Principled conservatives believe that civic participation begins with home rule and local decision-making- it’s never a good state of affairs when bureaucrats from any authority administer top-down decrees that don’t truly consider local sentiments and sensibilities.