A region that Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo called a “forgotten part of Northwest Dade” was no longer ignored with the opening Tuesday of the Northwest 170 Street bridge.
The bridge spans Interstate 75 and connects the Town of Miami Lakes, the city of Hialeah and part of Miami-Dade County.
Bovo called the bridge “a vital link … perhaps the third vital link for Hialeah and Miami Lakes if you count [Northwest] 87th and [Northwest] 67th Avenue,” Bovo said.
Officials from Hialeah, the state legislature, U.S. Congress and the county were present for the ribbon cutting on the Hialeah side of the span.
No officials from Miami Lakes were present.
Bryan Morera lives along Northwest 87th Avenue in Miami Lakes, which will see more traffic from the opened bridge. He started a Change.Org petition in a failed attempt to pressure town officials to keep the bridge closed, and it drew 4,319 signatures.
“I think starting today we’re going to start seeing the detrimental effects of not taking enough action both on the side of our elected officials as well as on the side of our residents,” Morera said. “This is a town of 30,000 people and that petition should have raised a lot more signatures.”
While many residents spoke during council meetings against opening the bridges and called and emailed council members, Morera said he wished the opposition had been more active.
Wednesday is the first day of school.
“I’m going to play dart and dodge traffic,” said Morera, an attorney. On Tuesday he was plotting how he would get to his new office in the southern end of town, on Commerce Way and said he planned to leave home early in the day.
The bridge is owned by the state. As housing developments were built on the Hialeah side of I-75, whether to continue to keep the bridge closed became a point of contention between the municipalities and the county.
It also divided Miami Lakers – though the most vocal were those who opposed opening it.
To them, traffic from some of the 6,000 residents who live west of I-75 between Northwest 138th Street and Northwest 170th Street and who may want to access schools in town or area highways are a huge concern.
Until Tuesday, those thousands of Hialeah residents -- in an area Bovo calls the annex and who will be joined by residents of new housing being built in the county areas to the north -- had only one way to get out of the area: Northwest 97 Avenue.
A car crash or other troubles could and have delayed residents for hours.
In May, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the town, Hialeah, and Miami-Dade County to open the bridge.
Though Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz wanted to open the southern span at Northwest 154th Street too, the memorandum allows it to remain closed for a decade, unless road improvements such as ramps to I-75 are built, and it could be opened.
Bovo said safety was a key reason to have the Northwest 170th Street bridge opened.
“We have had too many stories of accidents happening in the annex area and emergency services having a hard time getting here,” Bovo said.
Hialeah has a fire rescue station, No. 9, at 3620 W. 104th St. that serves the annex area, Hialeah Fire Dept. Public Information Officer David Rodiguez said.
The west side of Northwest 97th Avenue is largely industrial businesses.
The area to the north is where the American Dream Mall project is also planned to be built.
Along with making sure residents are safe, Bovo said that through the interlocal agreements with the different police and fire forces, they could provide support to both Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North.
“Hialeah and Miami Lakes have always been a united community,” Bovo said.
Bovo thanked the town council of Miami Lakes, specifically Mayor Manny Cid and Vice Mayor Jeffrey Rodriguez, for their work in getting the bridge opened.
County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia’s office is working on a study for ramps onto I-75.
Garcia represents Miami Lakes, Hialeah and unincorporated areas of the county as well as Palm Springs North.
Garcia told The Miami Laker that he is expecting a call from the Florida Department of Transportation this week regarding the ramps, whether they could be built and how much they could cost.
“The solution is connectivity to I-75 … ,” Garcia said.
The study had been commissioned before the bridge opening, he said.
Miami-Dade Police Maj. Javier Ruiz leads the agency’s division in town and said there were no plans to station officers near the bridge, which has just one lane in each direction.
Ruiz said that officers will be positioned along intersections on Northwest 154th Street on the first day of school. The agency has placed officers along Miami Lakes Drive that way during weekday mornings in recent years.
“We are anticipating that there will be additional traffic on [Northwest] 154th St. heading towards the Palmetto, because of traffic coming in,” Ruiz said.
Other officials who attended the press conference were U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Doral; Fla. Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah; Hialeah Council President Carl Zogby; Hialeah Council Vice President Monica Perez; Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor; Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz; Miami-Dade County Department of Public Works and Transportation Director Eulois Cleckley.
Photo by Alexandra Herrera.