By Brooke Shafer

MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – A portion of one of South Florida’s busiest streets and tourist attractions, Ocean Drive in South Beach, is back open to vehicular traffic, after being shut down for nearly two years.

One southbound lane from Fifth to 13th Streets reopened early Monday morning to cars, with a two-way bike lane replacing the public parking spaces on the east side of the street.

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(CBS4)

Miami Beach city workers were out bright and early removing those bright green barricades that blocked cars from traveling on the usually busy road at Fifth Street and Ocean Drive.

Reaction to the reopening is mixed. Some people are happy to see Ocean Drive back open to cars, but others said they got used to the extra room of being able to walk down the street and don’t welcome the change.

The street was closed in 2020 to expand outdoor dining and public recreation space during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I felt like COVID shut it down and it just didn’t feel the same,” said Miami Beach resident Joe Galiatsatos.

Resident Richard Hall said he got used to walking down Ocean Drive and thinks reopening it for cars is a bad idea.

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“People need to be able to stand back and look at the beautiful architecture we have here. With cars, you can’t do that,” he said.

Keeping cars off Ocean Drive was at the center of some recent debates.

During the 2021 Spring Break in March,  it was cited as part of the problem for those unruly crowds.

Our news partners at the Miami Herald report the closure also became the subject of two lawsuits filed against the City of Miami Beach.

Hotel owners argued it hurt their business and stopped guests from getting to the hotels.

“As long as it’s opened, a lot of people will be happy that they can pass through,” said resident Dike Laenier.

A pedestrian plaza is also being added between 13th Street and 14th Place.

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Traffic blockades will continue to divert drivers from entering the South of Fifth neighborhood from Ocean Drive.