Leaks fixed, port tunnel opening due
Working through embarrassing delays, builders of the PortMiami Tunnel now say the $1 billion engineering behemoth beneath Biscayne Bay could open in three weeks.
That would be the first week of August, more than two months after officials held a ceremonial opening only to discover a leaking pipe and two malfunctioning ventilator fans that dashed hopes for a Memorial Day weekend opening.
“We are demanding excellence,” Chris Hodgkins, vice president of MAT Concessionaire, the tunnel’s developer for the Florida Department of Transportation, said of the work.
Crews have replaced a broken drain pipe – a pressurized force main – under the tunnel’s road. Investigators determined a truck carrying concrete had crushed the pipe. They tried to reline the pipe but it wasn’t good enough, so the pipe, more than a foot under asphalt and concrete, was dug up and another was laid, Mr. Hodgkins said.
Also, two of the tunnel’s 44 giant fans were vibrating heavily, so the system was shut down. Experts inspecting it determined it was a “quality control issue” having to do with how the fans were fabricated, installed or maintained, he said.
All the fans were shipped back to the manufacturer for analysis. So far, 20 have been reinstalled and the remaining 24 are expected to be in place within 10 days, followed by testing, he said. After that, other safety checks and procedures are needed.
Bouygues, part of the consortium that developed the tunnel, has been paying $115,000 a day in penalties for the delay. They will total more than $4 million by early August. The money goes to MAT Concessionaire to cover costs related to its loan to finance the tunnel, since the late opening has kept MAT from receiving a $350 million payment, Mr. Hodgkins said.