Supporters for Miami’s winning Interstate 395 bridge design are making an impassioned plea to the Florida Department of Transportation to move forward with the project as soon as possible.

The long-overdue project to revamp I-395 in downtown Miami will replace an aging expressway that cuts through Overtown, literally dividing the community in half. The winning design, by Archer-Western de Moya, will raise the overpass by 60 feet, to allow for form as well as function. From the Miami New Times:

The Archer Western-de Moya plan includes demolishing the part of I-395 that sits just 19 feet above Overtown. The plan is to replace the bridge to heights up to 63 feet, which would allow for natural light and vegetation to grow.

But restoring the underlying community of Overtown, part of which was literally paved over in the 1960’s to make way for the existing overpass, is part of the larger goal for the project.

“Overtown has been patiently waiting for these improvments for the past 50 years and it is our time to be back in the limelight,” said Timothy Barber, executive director for the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, which sits just southeast of the current overpass.

Not everyone is happy with the winning bid. Fluor-Astaldi-MCM, which lost the bid for the $800 million project, filed a protest. The group says FDOT’s process of selecting the winner “diluted the voice of the community.”

But Barber says the Archer-Western / de Moya team was the only one to meet with them and incorporate the area’s heritiage into the design of the project. He called the design a “unique opportunity” for Overtown.

And other Miami pundits are less diplomatic, accusing Miami mayor Carlos Giminez of cronyism in his opposition to the winning bridge design:

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his pals on the county commission are trying to sell us a bridge. Not just any bridge. His buddy’s bridge…

…The argument that the mayor and Heyman are making center on the premise that there has not been enough community involvement. Suddenly, out of the blue, after the contract has been awarded, during a public process with dozens of meetings and during which a county commissioner served on an advisory committee, the mayor wrote that the county wants to have more input.

Regardless of whether or not personal politics are at play, the suggestion that FDOT didn’t involve the community is now being actively beaten back by the winning bidders and by members of the local community.

But the bid protest – justified or not – will continue to hold up any progress on the project while FDOT sorts out the dispute.