Sony Open to cause more traffic trouble on Bear Cut Bridge

Tennis Tournament starts in Key Biscayne on Monday

Published On: Mar 18 2013 06:42:25 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 18 2013 12:23:01 PM EDT
bear cut bridge
MIAMI -

Construction has been causing major slowdowns for drivers in Key Biscayne.

Earlier this year, part of Bear Cut Bridge was shut down after it was deemed unsafe.

That meant long backups for people who live or travel to Key Biscayne and for the next few weeks, those traffic troubles are going to get even worse, as thousands head there for the Sony Open Tennis Tournament.

"It's backed up way around the curb now and this is the middle of the afternoon," said a driver.

Organizers of the Sony Open are now telling tennis fans to plan for plenty of travel time.

Qualifying matches begin Monday, and that could serve up some major congestion.

It was after a review from the Florida Department of Transportation  that officials decided to close lanes along Bear Cut Bridge.

They said there was a "structural deficiency", when referring to beams that were weakened by the salt water.

"The steel beams, installed in 1944, are the ones that have the deficiency," said a worker for the Florida Department of Transportation.

All westbound lanes were closed in January. It's the only main road leading to and from Key Biscayne.

As of Monday morning,  two lanes are open both east and westbound, but are narrower than before.

Miami-Dade County says repairing the deterioration on the bear cut bridge is crucial, but no one is in danger now.

"We're confident that the bridge won't fall, but we want to make every effort in making sure that we are doing the right thing," said another Florida Department of Transportation worker.

The eastbound lanes are still functional, but crews say the decking on the westbound lanes will need replacing. That could take a year and cost $25 million.
   
"We can't be irresponsible and put our heads in the sand and ignore that reality," said Key Biscayne Mayor Franklin Caplan.

The Key Biscayne Village Council is actually asking Miami-Dade to reconsider its repair plan.

It would require a temporary fix that some believe could put commuters in greater danger.

As for the Sony Open, free shuttles will be available from Virginia Key and take fans to the tennis center.