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Front Page » Top Stories » Ruling May Sink Tunnel Fund Source

Ruling May Sink Tunnel Fund Source

Written by on September 13, 2007

By Risa Polansky
Miami’s already-elusive $50 million share to dig a Port of Miami tunnel was further jeopardized by a Florida Supreme Court ruling last week that could hamstring community redevelopment agencies statewide.

For the first time, City Manager Pete Hernandez has conceded city staff may have to look beyond the Miami redevelopment agency for tunnel funds. Administrators have resisted that for months, despite the agency board’s refusal to fund the tunnel.

The court ruled that voters, not just board members, must approve use of redevelopment agency funds to finance bonds for capital improvements, adding time and more risk of failure to the process.

"We don’t know yet" how the ruling will impact Miami’s opportunity to access the money should the agency board allow it, Mr. Hernandez said, but the city is working to see "whether the CRA money could still be used, and if so, in what way, and if not, what are the other options."

Even if the agency board overturns its vote to deny funds to a tunnel without a guaranteed payback, "too much time is going to go by" if a referendum is required, said Johnny Martinez, district six secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, which has the largest stake in the project.

The tunnel’s concessionaire has set a Sept. 30 deadline for all funds to be approved before raising its price— which could kill the tunnel, Mr. Martinez said — and the city’s share is the missing link.

After the drastic change to the redevelopment agency’s ability to spend, the state plans to seek an extension, but "it was not easy getting them to hold it until Sept. 30," he said. "Something like this may force them (the city) to find other ways to make up their share."

nCourt’s ruling threatening redevelopment agencies, pg. 2 Advertisement