Port Miami Tunnel
|Watson Island entrance|
|Work begun||May 24, 2010|
|Opened||August 3, 2014|
|Operator||MAT Concessionaire, LLC|
|Length||4,200 feet (1,300 m)|
|Number of lanes||2 in each direction|
|Operating speed||35 miles per hour|
|Highest elevation||Sea level|
|Lowest elevation||−120 feet (−37 m)|
|Width||43 feet (13 m) per tunnel|
|Maintained by FDOT|
|Existed:||2014 – present|
The Port Miami Tunnel (also Florida State Road 887; formerly Port of Miami Tunnel) is a 4,200 feet (1,300 m) bored, undersea tunnel in Miami, Florida. It consists of two, parallel tunnels (one in each direction) that travel beneath Biscayne Bay, connecting the MacArthur Causeway on Watson Island with PortMiami on Dodge Island. It was built in a public–private partnership between three government entities—the Florida Department of Transportation, Miami-Dade County, & the City of Miami—and the private entity MAT Concessionaire LLC, which was in charge of designing, building, and financing the project and holds a 31-year concession to operate the tunnel.
The project was temporarily cancelled in late 2008 due to the financial crisis but was resumed in 2009, with construction commencing in May 2010. The tunnel was dedicated by Florida governor Rick Scott on May 19, 2014, with a public opening scheduled for June 2014, which due to additional delays was pushed back to August 3.
Although a tunnel connecting the Port of Miami to Watson Island was first proposed in the 1980s, when the House rejected President Ronald Reagan's attempt to veto the bill to conduct a premilinary study and called it a "pork-barrel" project,[clarification needed] when the port was only connected to the mainland by a two-lane drawbridge (the current six lane elevated bridge was built in the early 1990s), it was not until 2006 that the tender for the tunnel project was ready to be launched and December 2007 that the project was approved by City Commission. However, the economic crisis resulted in a cancellation of the project in December 2008 by one of the sponsors, Babcock & Brown, and the State of Florida. Despite this, in April 2009, following intense lobbying by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, to avoid a new tender that would delay even further the start of construction, the project was reinstated. Port director Bill Johnson has also played a key role in supporting the Port of Miami infrastructure projects, as well as developing a free-trade pact with Colombia. Altogether, the port infrastructure projects have an estimated cost of around two billion dollars.
Prior to 2008, the project had been estimated at a total cost of $3.1 billion USD, however the revised project has an estimated cost of $1 billion USD (The difference in estimates partially due to differences in previous tunnel designs). Financial closing on the project was reached in October, 2009. Miami-Dade County is expected to contribute $402 million, the city of Miami contributing $50 million, and the state giving $650 million to build, operate and maintain it. Those contributions are spread during construction and operation of the tunnel project. During construction, 90% of the funds are provided by the private sector. Of the estimated one billion dollar total project cost, 607 million it said to go to design and construction, 195.1 million to financing, 59.6 million to insurance and maintenance during construction, 41.2 million to reserves, and 209.8 million for state development cost.
Public-private partnership (PPP)
The tunnel project is a public-private partnership (PPP or P3), designed to transfer the responsibility to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the project to the private sector. Ten banks, BNP Paribas, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, RBS Citizens, N.A., Banco Santander, Bayerische Hypo, Calyon, Dexia, ING Capital, Societe Generale, and WestLB, will provide the senior debt financing for the project, which totals $341.5 million. The project attracted three bidding consortia. Under the concession agreement, FDOT will make milestone payments to the concessionaire (Miami Access Tunnel) during the construction period, upon the achievement of contractual milestones. 90% of Miami Access Tunnel's equity is provided by Meridiam Infrastructure Miami LLC (Luxembourg based Meridiam Infrastructure Finance SARL); the remaining 10% by France's Bouygues Travaux Publics SA, operating as Dragages Concession Florida Inc. The Port of Miami Tunnel Project was one of the first P3's in Florida, and the first availability-based P3 deal in the US, after the Interstate 595 (I-595) renovation project in Broward County.
When construction is completed, FDOT will make availability payments to the concessionaire. These payments will be contingent upon actual lane availability and service quality: if the tunnel is closed or the road is in bad condition, part or all of the payment for that period may be withheld. The tunnel will turned over to FDOT in first-class condition at the end of the contract in October 2044, thirty years after its completion. Maintenance costs over this 30-year period are expected to total around $200 million. Unlike many similar public-private partnerships, the tunnels will not have a toll.
The originally scheduled June 2014 opening was delayed due to several mechanical problems, including leaky pipes, broken exhaust fans due to sudden vibrations, and failing bolts. The general contractor Bouygues was fined $115 thousand for every day that the tunnel was not open, losing millions of dollars. The tunnel was officially opened to commercial and private traffic on August 3, 2014.
The Port of Miami Tunnel project involves the design and widening of the MacArthur Causeway by one lane in each direction leading up to the tunnel entrance, the relocation of Parrot Jungle Trail, and the reconstruction of roadways on Dodge Island. The tunnel itself will have two side by side tubes carrying traffic underneath the cruise side of the Government Cut shipping lane. Jacobs Engineering Group is responsible for the design of the roadways, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services is the geotechnical engineer, and Bouygues is the prime contractor for the tunnel project itself. Chosen due to their key involvement in the construction of the Channel Tunnel, a major tunnel in Europe, the selection of Bouygues was also met with controversy and protested by the Cuban exile community in Miami, due to the company's involvement with locally opposed construction projects in Cuba.
The project will connect the east/west Interstate 395 (I-395)/State Road 836, which terminates into State Route A1A at the Miami city limit on the MacArthur Causeway, as well as Interstate 95 directly to the Port of Miami. The port is currently only connected to the mainland by Port Boulevard, which is accessed by crossing U.S. Route 1 (Biscayne Boulevard) and traveling through downtown. The project also includes roadway improvements to the connection between I-395 and State Road 836, also known as the Dolphin Expressway, at Interstate 95. The tunnel will allow heavy trucks to bypass the congested Downtown Miami area, which is considered to be especially crucial with the large increase in trade traffic expected to be created by the Deep Dredge Project and the enlargement of the Panama Canal. Projected to carry 26,000 vehicles a day under Government Cut through a pair of tunnels that would each be two lanes wide, the top of the tunnel will lie a minimum of 60 feet (18.3 m) below the seabed. In addition, the tunnel project is expected to create 400 to 600 direct jobs, and, hand in hand with the Deep Dredge and Panama Canal Expansion, over 30,000 jobs in the long run. Project executives have promised that many of the construction jobs will go to local contractors.
Nearly 16,000 vehicles travel to and from the Port of Miami through downtown streets each weekday. Truck traffic makes up 28% (or 4,480) of this number (Source: 2009 PB Americas Traffic Study). In 2010 it was estimated that around 19,000 vehicles traveled to the port daily and that only 16% were trucks. Existing truck and bus routes restrict the port's ability to grow, drive up costs for port users and present safety hazards. They also congest and limit redevelopment of the northern portion of Miami's Central Business District.
The Port of Miami Tunnel includes providing a direct connection from the Port of Miami to highways via Watson Island to I-395 and, along with the deep dredge, keeping the Port of Miami, the County's second largest economic generator (after Miami International Airport), supporting over 11,000 jobs directly with an average salary of $50,000, a competitive player in international trade. The Port of Miami provides 176,000 jobs, $6.4 billion in wages and $17 billion in economic output. (Source: 2007 Port of Miami Economic Impact Study).
According to the Miami Herald the financing structure of the plan is notable for the amount of financial risk taken by the builders in return for the long term concession on the tunnel. Opposition to the project states that it is a waste of taxpayer money, and may become Miami's Big Dig, the nickname of a tunnel megaproject in Boston, which was a $4 billion project that ended up costing $22 billion in cost overruns. Many believe that the Port of Miami Tunnel Project will be likely to have similar cost overruns, even though the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) promised that the project would finish on time and without overruns. They also state that truck traffic is not a problem in Downtown, and that since 1991 car and truck traffic has reduced significantly. Downtown business owners have referred to it as the "tunnel to no where," stating that no one will use it. In 1992, 32,000 vehicles entered the port daily, a number which later dropped to nearly half that, but has recently risen to around 19,000. It has been regarded as a boondoggle project by those who oppose it, stating that the city can't afford it. In fact, the city did have difficulty providing its $50 million portion of the funding for the project. Some believe it may create traffic problems on the MacArthur Causeway; environmentalists worry about the potentially negative impact the construction could have on the Biscayne Bay. An ominous foreshadowing of cost overruns, Miami Access Tunnel requested money from a $150 million reserve fund in July 2011 for the unexpected need to grout the limestone beneath the surface so that the tunnel boring machine cuts more smoothly. This request alarmed new Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez when it was brought up at his first commissioners meeting as mayor on July 7. The contractor stated that they will continue without the additional requested money if FDOT denies it, but it may end up as a court case as the contractor seeks it later. On July 19, the FDOT denied the request for more money to the contractor, stating that the geological issue cited was not as extensive as MAT claimed.
Although there is great speculation that the Port of Miami Tunnel project is both unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is expected to have positive benefits in the long run which coincide with several other related projects predicted to increase its traffic, many, such as the Port of Miami Deep Dredge Project and Panama Canal expansion, also slated to finish in 2014. The port has gone through several expensive projects throughout its history, and many have been seen as beneficial to the economic growth of the Greater Miami area in the long run, such as in the 1950s when the deteriorating Port of Miami, then located in the mainland in downtown, was moved to its current home, the man-made Dodge Island. The current port director of the Port of Miami Bill Johnson states that these new port infrastructure projects should be able to double the port's container capacity over the next decade. Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff stated that "This is the best public works project ever." A strong trade industry is also considered to be a vital sign of a good and improving economy.
In addition to the expected increase in cargo traffic, the Port of Miami recently stated that October 2010 was its busiest October ever for cruise vacations. The port had a record 346,513 cruise passengers that October, up 29% from October 2009. This follows a record year in cruise traffic, with 4.15 million cruise passengers in the 12 months that ended in September. This is partially due to the arrival of new cruise ships such as the Norwegian Epic, as well as the cruise line Costa Cruises. Despite this, the Port of Miami has recently been losing cruise and cargo traffic to nearby Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. In 2010, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which is headquartered in Miami, chose Port Everglades as home for its new cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, currently the largest cruise ships in the world. As far as cargo traffic, truckers state that despite the longer miles, they can make more trips per day at Port Everglades. Also, they blame the port itself for this, not the Downtown traffic. They state that at Port Everglades, they can make three to four runs a day, versus Port of Miami where "you're lucky if you get in two," states truck driver Alejandro Arrieta, due to waiting time at the port, which is often several hours. Port Everglades also has major redevelopment plans underway that includes a deep dredging to a 50-foot (15 m) depth; they also claim to have surpassed the Port of Miami, which has long been known as the "Cruise Capital of the World" as well as the "Cargo Gateway to the Americas," in both cruise traffic and cargo tonnage handled.
The Port of Miami was also recently awarded a federal grant as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to restore a connection between the Florida East Coast Railway's yard in Hialeah and the Port of Miami, directly connecting the port to rail networks across the United States, as well as re-establish the port's on-dock rail capability (loading and unloading directly between ships and trains). The railroad bridge connecting the Port of Miami to the mainland was damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, at which time service was suspended, and the bridge remains closed as of 2010. There is no set date on when this project will be completed, but it is stated to be ready by the completion of the other projects in 2014. The rail project is part of another element of increasing Port of Miami's capacity, an inland intermodal center to be built near the airport known as Flagler Logistics Hub, which will be built over the next few years on 300 acres of land in Hialeah. Opposition to the railroad line returning to service is that it would be as much of a problem to downtown traffic as the container trucks and that the noise would be a disturbance to nearby residents. As with before, however, trains would be occasional and reserved for specialty loads, such as oversized loads and hazardous materials which will be banned from the tunnel. It was also stated that the trains, which will be able to go up to 30 mph on the newly renovated line versus the old limit of 5 mph, will be able to cross Biscayne Boulevard in 90 seconds. The current plan is for the line to be strictly for intermodal services, with the project including a rail yard and station at the port, however, in the future a passenger station may be added. The cost of restoring the rail link between the port and the Hialeah Railyard was estimated at $46.9 million, 28 million of which was applied for through a federal grant in 2010. Later that year, a grant of $22 million was awarded for this project, as well as to build an on site intermodal rail yard at the port. During the 2000s the percent of Florida East Coast Railway's business has increased from around 60% to around 80% intermodal freight. However, this is partially due to a decrease in other freight traffic caused by the recession, which reduced the number of trains, many carrying rock aggregate used in construction, from about 20 to 14 per day. In addition to this, there is also a plan to start a passenger service line connecting Jacksonville to Miami using the FECR mainline, with stops at popular tourist attractions. The State of Florida has provided $116 of the $268 million needed to fund this project. The remaining funding for the passenger line is expected to come from a federal grant, and the remaining funding to fix the local freight line from the Port to Hialeah is supposed to come from the Florida East Coast Railroad (FEC) at $10.9 million, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) at $10.9 million, and the Port of Miami itself providing 4.8 million. In April 2011, Atlas Railroad Construction was chosen to rebuild the line, which will be done by 2012 and is estimated to remove 5% of the roadway traffic from the port. On July 15, 2011, a groundbreaking ceremony that included US Senator Bill Nelson, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez, as well as Miami city mayor Tomás Regalado, was held for the beginning of the rail link project, which is expected to create over 800 jobs and $33.38 million in wages. The project has been named the Port of Miami Intermodal and Rail Reconnection Project.
Another major benefit of the tunnel will be the redirecting of the large amount of vehicles (nearly 16,000 daily; 2009 estimate), many of them container trucks and cruise buses, that cross Biscayne Boulevard (US 1) at NW 5th Street (Port Boulevard), using level streets, such as Northeast 1st Avenue, which are currently the only way to access the port. Along with the capacity of the port, the amount of truck traffic could double after the completion of several projects in 2014. Additionally the entrance to the port is closed at night, concentrating all truck traffic during the day. This traffic creates congestion and presents a danger to pedestrians and bicyclists. Traffic is also considered to be a harm to Miami's northern central business district, reducing its ability to grow, including the new arts and entertainment (Omni) district, valued at over $12 billion. The developers for another planned project for the north side of downtown, known as Miami City Square, stated that the heavy truck traffic and congestion in that area was a "grave concern." The Omni Community Redevelopment Agency used a $50 million loan from Wachovia to donate towards financing the tunnel construction. World Resorts Miami by Genting Group is another major development planned for the area where congestion is a concern. Additionally, the population of Downtown Miami has nearly doubled since 2000 and is expected to increase by several thousand more by 2015, largely due to many new high rise condo developments in the downtown area adding thousands of housing units, as well as several planned new condo developments which will benefit from having the tunnel. Although traffic and port activity has declined since the early 90's, losing it to the nearby Port Everglades, which overtook Port of Miami in 2007 as Florida's largest cargo port, the port is likely to see a large shift in the other direction after it becomes one of few deep water ports in the United States able to handle the New Panamax ships in 2014.
It is also estimated that 46% to 80% of the passenger vehicles, many shuttle buses and taxis, which make up nearly three quarters of the total port traffic, that travel to and from the port will use the tunnel after it is completed.
Deep Dredge/Panama Canal expansion
The tunnel project is intended to open at the same time as two other projects, the Port of Miami Deep Dredge and the Panama Canal expansion - the enlargement of the Panama Canal, including its locks - are completed in 2014. This will allow much larger ships, known as New Panamax, which will have a capacity of more than double that of Panamax ships to traverse the canal. As the Port of Miami is the closest American port on the eastern seaboard to the Panama Canal, it is expected to be the most desired port of call for ships inbound to the US from the eastern end of the canal. The current depth of the port is 42 feet (13 m), it will need to be dredged to a depth of 50 feet (15 m) to handle the new, larger ships that will navigate the enlarged Panama Canal. It is also the only port in the southeast that has both the funding and approval to become a deep water port. Currently, the only ports in the United States that meet the -50 feet criteria are the ports of Norfolk, New York and Baltimore. In March 2011, Florida governor Rick Scott amended the $77 million in funding the port needed to go ahead with the deep dredge. This funding, which was lobbied to be put in President Obama's 2012 budget, was instead taken from a $7 billion Florida transportation fund after the Obama Administration declined it. Part of the controversy surrounding federal funding for the project were the earmarks that were to be used to put in on the bill, which then Governor-elect Rick Scott said he did not support. Scott also recently took a helicopter tour to see the Panama Canal expansion underway. The US Army Corps of Engineers will be responsible for the dredging, just as they were in the 1930s when the port was dredged from its original 18 feet (5.5 m) to a depth of 30 feet (9.1 m) after the S.S. Caledonia was unable to dock there in 1931, and again in the 1970s when the new, dedicated container port was created, with its own 42-foot (13 m) channel. This is predicted to cause a major increase in the Port of Miami's cargo traffic, which would overwhelm the intersection of Port Boulevard and Biscayne Boulevard without the tunnel. In 2009, 870,000 trucks moved cargo in and out of the port; and port officials estimate that that number will increase to around 1.4 million when larger ships start arriving. In 2010, about 800,000 TEU's were moved through the port, and port director Bill Johnson said that with the right marketing to major shippers, that number should double by 2020. Currently, the largest cargo ships that dock at the port have a capacity of around 4,200 TEU's (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). After the canal expansion and port dredging, ships as large as 7,500 to 8,500 TEU's will be able to dock there. In preparation for the deep dredge, the port has improved its retaining walls as well as added two new, taller and wider, gantry cranes, which are capable of handling the world's largest container ships, which are nearly 200 feet (61 m) (22 TEU container widths) wide and have capacities greater than 10,000 TEUs. Experts have recently stated that with or without deep dredging, the Port of Miami, along with many other ports, will still benefit from the Panama Canal expansion as it will lead to more, not just bigger, ships traversing it, and that the ports that will be able to handle the bigger ships may have no room for the smaller ships, meaning that port traffic should increase with or without the deep dredge. It is expected that the increase in port traffic after the improvements will be gradual, increases steadily in the first few years.
Work on the Port of Miami Tunnel project began on Watson Island and Dodge Island, including work on the MacArthur Causeway, in May 2010. Groundbreaking on the construction project was unannounced and considered secret, as the groundbreaking was scheduled for June 2010, but actually took place on May 24, 2010, without ceremony. The tunnel boring machine was built in Germany and had to be re-assembled in Florida after arriving in crates on the 168 metres (551 ft) cargo ship Combi Dock 1 on Thursday, June 23, 2011 and being assembled in the median of the causeway where the construction is taking place. Both directions of the MacArthur Causeway have remained open during the assembly of the machine except for nighttime lane closures and delays on the westbound side. The machine, which weighs more than 2,500 tons, was assembled in a 65-foot (20 m) deep pit known as the launching pad located in between two concrete walls in the median of the causeway, which only left a 42-foot (13 m) cutter visible from the road. According to NBC Miami, as of June 2011, 899 jobs had been created by the project, with over 70% being from the 305 area code (Miami-Dade County). The construction is projected to take 47 months, with the tunnel being finished in 2014. The French firm Bouygues Construction has been put in charge of operating the tunnel boring machine (nicknamed "Harriet"), which is longer than a football field, 540 feet (160 m) long, and over 40 feet (12 m) in diameter. It was used to bore two side by side 43 feet (13 m) diameter tunnels, one for each direction, each 3,900 feet (1.1 km) long. The tunnel boring machine itself cost $45 million and was custom built for the Port of Miami Tunnel Project by the German firm Herrenknecht. No explosives are said to be used on the construction of the tunnel. Drilling of the tunnel itself commenced in mid-November 2011, with the drilling machine beginning work on the Watson Island tunnel entrance. The first tunnel connecting Watson Island and the Port of Miami was completed in August 2012., and the second tunnel was completed on May 9, 2013 as "Harriet" emerged back on Watson Island, where digging had commenced in 2011. The roadway construction should finish for an opening on May 15, 2014. The MacArthur Causeway, which currently has three traffic lanes in each direction and a sidewalk on the eastbound side, will be widened to four 12-foot (3.7 m) wide traffic lanes with a ten foot inner and outer shoulder, as well as a six foot sidewalk.
In July 2011, a competition to name the tunnel boring machine was sponsored by MAT and the FDOT, and carried out by the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida. The nickname "Harriet" was selected as the winner and the winning Troops 30, 134, and 1191 won iPod nanos.
In March 2011, one of the sub contractors of Bouygues fell under criticism for the dumping of tunnel fill on sensitive wetlands on Virginia Key. They were supposed to be dumping the fill on Virginia Key on the degraded northwest side, but were found dumping it 80 to 100 yards (73.1 to 94.5 m) from the designated spot, where they damaged wetlands and killed about 40 mangrove trees with a piece of equipment that got stuck. The intention was that they would be allowed to put 55,000 cubic yards (42,050.5 m3) of fill there provided that they use it to build a berm to block the view of Virginia Key's sewage water treatment plant. The fill that was dumped on Virginia Key was mainly rock and soil from road construction and site preparation on Watson Island and not from tunnel boring, which environmentalists object being put on Virginia Key as it may not be as clean. The north point of Virginia Key, one of the last remaining undeveloped areas near the Miami downtown area, and has been recently restored as it was previously used as a dumping site for the infill from the Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami Marine Stadium, and Norris Cut. One other potential infill site that was briefly suggested is an inlet located between Bicentennial Park and the American Airlines Arena on the mainland in downtown, where Miami-Dade County was conducting a study on the effects it would have. This proposal was quickly retracted after public outcry due to the fact that the currently closed off waterfront lot, known as "Parcel B," is slated to soon be a long anticipated public park. There has also been minor controversy over speculation that a yacht allegedly owned by Bouygues may have been bought with public money. A Bouygues spokesperson denied this claim. The owner of the seaplane base on Watson Island has accused the tunnel builders of tresspassing for storing equipment on his property as well as for using the road that passes through his property. FDOT and city officials say the use of the land is permitted.
- Port of Miami Deep Dredge Project
- New Panamax
- Panama Canal expansion project
- Transportation in South Florida
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