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Front Page » Top Stories » Winton Says Hell Try To Block Countys Tunnel Feasibility Study

Winton Says Hell Try To Block Countys Tunnel Feasibility Study

Written by on March 4, 2004

By Susan Stabley
Miami-Dade County plans to solicit bids soon for a feasibility study on building a tunnel under the Miami River. But Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton says a study could kill the project.

"We don’t want it done," said Commissioner Winton. "I’ve sent a letter to (county commission) Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler to pull it off the table."

Commissioner Winton said Tuesday that a study would be used to recommend that a tunnel connecting Brickell to Miami’s downtown core should not be built. A Brickell-downtown tunnel is among projects approved last year by the city as part of its Downtown Transportation Master Plan. The tunnel is targeted to dip under the Miami River at Southwest First Avenue immediately east of a Metrorail line.

The tunnel was one of many projects included in the People’s Transportation Plan, passed by county voters in 2002, creating a half-cent sales tax earmarked for transportation improvements.

According to the county’s surface-transportation manager, Carlos Bonzon, the plan includes funding for a feasibility study but not construction

"We have no idea at this point how much it will cost," Mr. Bonzon said. "We have no information to justify the need for a tunnel from a transportation standpoint.

"We need to first conclude that we need a tunnel," he said. If the county decides a tunnel is feasible, it would then consider locations, cost and length of time to construct, he said.

The county will soon advertise for bids for a study and should have results in about six months, he said.

Officials have mentioned costs from $215 million to $500 million, according to Commissioner Winton. He said he has received estimates from engineers that the job could be done for less than $100 million. The Miami River Commission released a report in February 2003 by Everglades Economics that compares tunnel costs to bridges at two other sites along the river.

Bridges, with a 70-year life span, cost about $25 million to build and require rehabilitation every 20 years. Estimates for tunnels range from $24 million to $80 million and cause no congestion when used, according to the report.

Commissioner Winton said the city will ask that the project be transferred to the Florida Department of Transportation and out of the hands of those "who don’t want this tunnel to happen."