Town braces for county vote on NW 154th St. bridge

Community By Alexandra Herrera, Reporter Wednesday, March 2, 2022

     Miami Lakes councilmembers are urging residents to get active if they want to stop the opening of the Northwest 154th Street bridge that is currently closed. It crosses Interstate 75 and ends in Hialeah.

     The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners was scheduled to vote March 1 to urge the Florida Department of Transportation to open the span but deferred the vote until March 15 to give Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid and Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo time to continue their talks.

      Cid called for a special council meeting on March 2 to discuss the situation.  Also that night, Councilman Luis Collazo wanted to discuss a 2018 traffic study about the impact of opening the two bridges and see if it should be updated.

     About 18 Miami Lakes residents gathered at Town Hall on Feb. 23 for a meeting attended by Collazo and Councilmembers Tony Fernandez and Marilyn Ruano.  Ruano noted she saw the same faces as usual and said their neighbors need to get involved, too.  She also said residents need to stop arguing on Facebook and to attend county meetings in person. 

     “This is a make it or break it moment for Miami Lakes,” Ruano said. 

      She fears that if the span at Northwest 154th Street and the second bridge across I-75 at Northwest 170th Street are opened, traffic will worsen.

     “If these bridges open, Miami Lakes is done. Our quality of life is forever changed, 154 will turn into [West] 103rd Street in Hialeah,” Ruano said.

    Collazo said he sympathized with the plight of homeowners on the Hialeah side who have just one way in and out of their communities:  Northwest 97th Avenue.

      “It’s a quality-of-life issue and that’s the essence of what we’re trying to protect here, it’s a quality-of-life issue across the board,” Collazo said.    

     Attorney Bryan Morera lives in the Satori luxury residential development that is at the eastern foot of the bridge which is now blocked by a pocket park named for a young child who died from cancer, Jakey Duque.

      Morera led the meeting and has started a petition against opening the southern span.  As of Feb. 28, it had 3,723 signatures, including from town councilmembers.

     Not everyone thinks opening the bridges is a bad idea.

     John Rogger is chair of the Miami Lakes Special Needs Advisory Board.  He lives in the West Lakes neighborhood south of Northwest 154th Street.  Rogger works at South Florida Autism Charter School where his children are enrolled. 

       It’s on West 108th Street west of Northwest 97th Avenue in Hialeah. An open bridge at Northwest 170th Street would ease the family’s commute. 

      “Right now, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour just to get my kids to and from there,” Rogger said. “To see it sit there and not doing nothing, especially after Miami-Dade has put so much effort into trying to open it, it’s ridiculous.”      

     He wants the southern span to stay closed and become green space and for Jakey Duque Park to remain intact.

     Meanwhile, the parties involved in a lawsuit over opening the Northwest 170th Street bridge are “considering their options,” Town Attorney Raul Gastesi said Feb. 24 in an email.

     The appellate court determined that the town’s lawsuit -- which a county judge had previously dismissed -- was worthy to be heard.

     “There are a lot of variables in terms of strategies and the proceedings,” Gastesi said. “It is now for the county, the City of Hialeah, and the remaining defendants [developer Lennar Homes LLC and its road construction contractor Downrite Engineering] to respond to the lawsuit with their defenses, if any.”

     At the same time, the parties continued to be engaged in settlement discussions, Gastesi said.