South Beach traffic alert: Ocean Drive will be one-way for much of the weekend

In an effort to calm the party atmosphere on Ocean Drive, Miami Beach officials are experimenting with the flow of traffic on the popular beachfront street lined with historic Art Deco hotels and bustling bars and nightclubs.

“This is part of an effort to identify creative approaches to addressing the crime, traffic and interaction of pedestrians and cars,” wrote City Manager Jimmy Morales in an email this week to Mayor Dan Gelber and the City Commission.

Starting at 7 p.m. Friday, the usually two-way street will be converted to one-way southbound between Fifth and 11th streets, leaving more room for pedestrians on the eastern parking lane fronting Lummus Park. Parking will be prohibited on the east side of Ocean Drive between these streets. Cars will be directed south in the west lane. Valet operations will continue as normal.

Two-way traffic will begin again at 5 a.m. Saturday. Then the one-way pattern will resume at 7 p.m. and remain until 4 p.m. Sunday.

While Ocean Drive is one way heading south, traffic at Fifth Street will be diverted to prevent northbound traffic from driving the wrong way up Ocean.

City officials are looking at different ways to change the atmosphere on Ocean Drive in the wake of a failed referendum to roll back hours of alcohol sales at several venues from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. Elected officials have debated how to change the street from party central for drunk tourists to a more welcoming area for locals.

The Ocean Drive Association did not object to the pilot program.

In an email to Morales, Police Chief Dan Oates described the traffic change as an experiment in crowd control that could inform how police prepare for busier weekends.

“This is something we have talked about for quite a while as a way to better control behavior and reduce tension associated with vehicle-pedestrian conflict on Ocean Drive on busy weekend nights,” Oates wrote. “We will evaluate this weekend’s action, and we may consider another experiment on a busy weekend in January. We hope to learn whether such a traffic plan is a smart long-term alternative for behavior and crowd control at busy times of the year.”