State Insists Tunnel Funds Be Settled On By Sept 30
Written by Risa Polansky on September 6, 2007
By Risa Polansky
Miami-Dade County’s proposed port tunnel faces a jam not unlike those it is designed to divert: if full funding for the $1 billion-plus tunnel is not in place by Sept. 30, the long-planned project could be scrapped, officials say.
The City of Miami’s $50 million contribution is "the only missing piece" of the puzzle, said Johnny Martinez, district six secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation.
The project’s concessionaire team, charged with not only building but also operating and maintaining the tunnel, cannot move forward until all funding gaps are closed, he said, and has set a Sept. 30 cutoff before potentially raising the project’s price.
The project is designed to relieve congestion by diverting port-related trucking from downtown streets through a mile-long tunnel connecting the Port of Miami to Watson Island.
"If the concessionaire can’t hold the prices and the prices go up, there’s no more money from the state and the county to make up the difference," Mr. Martinez said, and Miami-Dade "may lose the project."
The city’s only funding source is its Community Redevelopment Agency, said City Manager Pete Hernandez — and city commissioners sitting as the agency board last month denied funds to the tunnel without a guarantee they’d recoup the money.
A recoup is unlikely, both Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Martinez said.
Commissioners have yet to vote as a commission whether to authorize the $50 million, and just two meetings remain before the looming Sept. 30 deadline.
Enabling legislation should come before commissioners Sept. 27, Mr. Hernandez said.