One of South Florida’s most iconic stretches of roadway is reopening to cars Monday.
Miami Beach’s famed Ocean Drive is allowing drivers after being car free for over two years. City leaders shut down the street in May 2020 to cars amid the COVID pandemic and it proved to be popular with pedestrians.
However, some raised concerns about safety during last year’s spring break and some hotel owners said it was harder for guests to reach their properties.
“I really believe closing the street was a mistake because we didn’t have a plan, and that lack of a plan just allowed people to gather in the middle of the street,” said city commissioner David Richardson. “Now going forward, we’re going to have a reimagination of Ocean Drive, but that construction is probably not going to start for another year and half.”
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Some on the city commission are not happy about the return of cars and added the return could be temporary.
“The future of Ocean Drive is pedestrian. And it’s very important, that we’re not just talking about cars,” said commissioner Mark Samuelian. “Because where cars go, slingshots go and scooters go and golf carts go. I don’t think putting a lane of vehicles in the middle of that is the right direction.”
Residents, like Matthew Gultanoff, are not happy either.
“Big mistake to bring cars back to the street," he said. “Last two years of a car free Ocean Drive have been great. Not just for residents and for visitors, but businesses are also booming.”
Tourists , on the other hand, are in favor of the return of cars.
“You know that makes it wonderful," said Regina Payne, who arrived in town after a cruise. "We’ve just got little ones and of course they’ve got extra stuff. (It) makes a huge difference I’m sure to everyone.”
The stretch from 13th Street to 5th Street will have just one southbound lane and be one way for that stretch. A new pedestrian plaza is set to open between 13th Street and 14th Place.