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Rene Garcia: ‘The people of Miami-Dade County … cannot wait any longer’ for signature bridge

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Sen. Rene Garcia is weighing in on a multi-million dollar bridge project planned for South Florida, telling the Florida Department of Transportation that the Miami-Dade community can’t wait any longer.

In a letter to FDOT Secretary Rachel Cone this week, Garcia said he was confident the procurement process established by the state transportation agency “followed the spirit and the letter of the law put forth by the 2013 settlement agreement between the city of Miami and the state.” His letter to transportation officials comes less than a week after Miami-Dade commissioners voted to ask the state to hold off awarding an $800 million contract to redo Interstate 395 so elected officials and residents could weigh in on proposals.

The Miami Herald reported last week that Miami-Dade commissioners voted unanimously to ask the state to stop the awarding of the contract, which includes building a “signature bridge” near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Some local officials argue that FDOT might not have adhered to a 2013 settlement agreement, that allowed local leaders to help pick the design.

On May 12, the state Department of Transportation announced it intended to award the project to Archer Western-de Moya Joint Venture. The Miami Herald reported Archer Western received a score of 88.4 and was the group preferred by a committee transportation administrators. However, the Herald reported a second group — Fluor Enterprises and Munilla Construction Management — was favored by a local advisory council, which included the head of the Miami downtown business authority and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, and received a score of 87.8.

Some local officials have said the state agency’s decision to go with Archer ignored agreements to give design aspects more weight in the process.

In his letter, Garcia said he was “in firm support of the way that the state has handled balancing local interests and its responsibility to the state taxpayers.”

“Through establishing an inclusive Aesthetics Review Committee including local leaders and interested parties, the public had numerous occasions to provide input and to review the aesthetic qualities each project brought to the table using a pass/fail grading system,” wrote Garcia in his letter, which he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “Additionally the rules of engagement for procurement were established in advance according to standard operating procedures within the department. All parties seeking procurement were aware of the criteria of evaluation, and were held to the same standards.”

Garcia went on to say that he hopes the department can “commit to the residents, families and drivers of Miami-Dade County that a bridge will be built according to the strictest timeliness put forth by the selection plan.” He also encouraged the state to make sure the project and contracts include the same “accountability measures that may include penalties to venders who cannot hold up their end of the bargain in order to prevent further delay over-runs.”

“This bridge is twenty years in the making, and the people of Miami-Dade County as well as the millions of visitors to our community cannot wait any longer,” he wrote.

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