Odebrecht officials touts his company for tunnel project
By Charlotte Libov
Asking David Peeples why he wants his company to build the Port of Miami tunnel is, he says, "like asking a pilot why he wants to fly."
As director of business development for Odebrecht in the US, Mr. Peeples says his company is uniquely qualified for the $1 billion-plus project and was to submit its qualifications to the Florida Department of Transportation, which were due this week.
From the list of companies qualified to tunnel under Biscayne Bay, the state transportation department is to create a short list of bidders by mid-June with plans to award a contract in December.
The tunnel would link the Port of Miami to MacArthur Causeway. Traffic would then flow onto Interstate 395, easing truck congestion on downtown streets.
According to Mr. Peeples, not many companies globally are experienced in tunnel work.
"Tunnels are not built on a regular basis," he said. "We build bridges, ports and tunnels, and we're only one of the four to five groups in the world who do this."
Since 1991, when the US arm of the Brazilian company won its first contract to expand Metromover, Odebrecht has become a familiar name in Miami. The company has built more than $3 billion in infrastructure in the US, he said, and has been involved in 38 projects in Miami, including at Miami International Airport, the Miami Performing Arts Center, AmericanAirlines Arena, the Golden Glades interchange and the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne Resort and Spa.
According to Mr. Peeples, Odebrecht currently is building tunnels in Lisbon, Portugal; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Caracas, Venezuela.
Mr. Peeples said this is the first time the transportation department has sought proposals and both sides must make certain that a plan is feasible.
"FDOT is in the early stages of seeing how this can be organized and funded," he said. "This is a very long-term, very complex project. You don't start talking to people unless you're very serious, but we are aware that things can change."
Odebrecht officials are certain the project is feasible, he said, but the state must decide "how it's to be done, when it's to be done and how it is paid for.
"Technically, a job like this is really unique, so it's the technology you're putting in place, not the job," he said. "The jobs differ according to location, according to the subsoil, whether you're building in an urban area and the historic preservation. Every area is unique."
Odebrecht is not alone in its interest in the tunnel project. The list of companies that attended the transportation department's informational meeting March 6 reads like a who's who of internationally known financiers, architects, builders and consultants.
Until qualification statements are received, though, it won't be known how many will seek a public-private partnership in which companies would design, build, operate and maintain the mile-long tunnel in exchange for annual government payments.
The transportation department held the informational meeting in part to bring companies together to encourage them to team up for the project since it will need to be financed, designed, built and operated, project spokesman Ric Katz has said.
Firms that specialize in design, engineering or construction of large-scale projects in attendance included Dragados USA Inc., DMJM, HNTB, AECOM Enterprises, Hatch Mott MacDonald, ARUP, Babendererde Engineers LLC, Vanus Inc., Skansha, Impregilo, Paco Group Inc., RREEF Infrastructure and Marlin Engineers.
Among financial firms represented were JP Morgan Securities, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of Ireland, UBS Securities LLC, Lehman Brothers, Deloitte, Caja Madrid Miami Agency, Calyon and Woolpert.