Bridges on the Brink: Miami Avenue

Loose grates make bridge structurally deficient

MIAMI - It's not the oldest bridge in Miami Dade County, but it just might be the loudest.

The South Miami Avenue drawbridge cuts through a canyon of condos as it crosses over the Miami River...and the sound it makes under the weight of traffic is nearly unbearable to those living above.

"Everybody complains about the noise," says Jacqueline Diaz, a resident of a building near the bridge. "I have all my friends living this way and we all complain about the noise, we're like, 'Close the windows,' because you can hear nothing."

Drawbridges are designed to be a little flexible. And the Miami Avenue bridge is no exception. It bounces. And it's a little scary when you're standing on top.

SPECIAL SECTION: Bridges on the Brink

The reason this bridge makes so much noise is the same reason the Department of Transportation has classified it as "structurally deficient."  The metal grates that make up the deck. are loose. They rattle every time a car goes over them.

It's so bad, the state told the county to restrict the size of vehicles that are allowed to cross over. But there's nobody at the foot of the bridge to enforce it. 

"Structurally the bridge is in good condition," said Gaspar Miranda, Miami-Dade County's Assistant Dir. of Public Works. "The deck is the one that is in bad shape."

Miranda says nearly 30 years of exposure to the salty environment has left the bridge deck rusty and corroded. You can see how the wear and tear from traffic and the elements have been like a one-two punch for this lightweight structure.

Is it dangerous?

"Not right now, " Miranda said. "That's why we have the load restrictions. So it's not an issue in that sense."

The Miami Avenue Bridge was built in 1985. It's not even 30 years old. That's pretty young for a bridge. Except for the corroded grates, the county says this structure is actually in pretty good shape.

In August, crews will begin replacing the steel deck. The bridge will also be painted and some of the mechanical and electrical components of the opening span will get an overhaul. 

The price tag will be roughly $5 million.  Miranda says the work will be sufficient to remove the structure from deficient list.

"Believe me, the first moment that the Florida Department of Transportation feels that we are endangering anything, they will advise us and we will close the bridge," Miranda said. "But right now, we are not in that position."

"If the noise is gone, it will be perfect," Diaz said.

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