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Front Page » Top Stories » Second Port Of Miami Tunnel To Begin

Second Port Of Miami Tunnel To Begin

Written by on September 20, 2012

By Scott Blake
One down, one to go. That’s where the Port Miami tunnel project stands.

Crews are in the process of repositioning the 291.5-ton tunnel boring machine to start drilling a second, or westbound, tunnel Oct. 19 from the seaport on Dodge Island to Watson Island, where the tunnel will link to the MacArthur Causeway.

The raw drilling of the second tunnel is expected to be completed next spring, although the project won’t be completed until the following year.

Drilling for the first, or eastbound, tunnel from Watson Island to the seaport was finished July 31, according to Miami Access Tunnel Concessionaire LLC, or MAT, the project’s contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation.

"We’re well on our way," Vice President Chris Hodgkins said Tuesday. "We’re very happy right now with the way things are going."

Mr. Hodgkins said the $1 billion project is on budget and on schedule to reach "substantial completion" on May 15, 2014.

Following a review of the work by the state Department of Transportation, the project will reach "final completion" on Aug. 13, 2014, and, barring unforeseen delays, will open to traffic the next day, he said.

Currently, the front of the tunnel boring machine, called a shield head, and another piece that acts as a conveyor for debris dug out of the tunnels is in place at the start of the second tunnel at the seaport.

The rest of the boring machine will be moved on a giant turntable and put into place at the second tunnel in coming weeks, Mr. Hodgkins said.

On average, the machine drills about 20 to 30 feet a day, according to MAT.

When drilling resumes, it will produce enough debris to fill 240 trucks per night. The trucks will transport the debris to a landfill on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay.

The twin 4,200-foot tunnels, which will run under Port Miami’s cruise ship channel, called Government Cut, are a big part of about $2 billion in infrastructure improvements to prepare Miami-Dade County’s seaport for increased business in the future.

Much of the work is being done for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, now scheduled for 2015.

The Port Miami tunnels will provide a second access and exit point for traffic going in and out of the seaport. Currently, the only way to and from the port is a bridge from Biscayne Boulevard in downtown to Dodge Island.

The construction cost of the tunnels is about $600 million, most of which is being financed by MAT, partly through a federal loan. In addition, MAT will receive about $400 million in payments from the state, largely to operate and maintain the tunnels under a 35-year agreement.

MAT is owned by Meridiam Infrastructure, a private equity firm specializing in investments in public-private partnership infrastructure projects, and by Bouygues, a French industrial group based in Paris.

Project officials are emphasizing the many construction-related jobs the project creates. Currently, about 400 persons work on the site, Mr. Hodgkins said.

Overall, he added, the project has involved some 6,000 workers, mainly with subcontractors and vendors, including many from Miami-Dade, who have worked in various capacities since the project began.

Not everything has gone as planned.

The Department of Transportation rejected MAT’s request to tap into the project’s $180 million reserve fund for $87.5 million for unexpected work related to "geotechnical formation" issues along the tunnel route.

Department spokesman Liz Fernandez said the two-part request for reserve funds by MAT was referred to the Technical Dispute Review Board, and, as a result, the department and the company are still in settlement discussions.

There have been no other requests to tap into the reserve fund, Mr. Hodgkins said.

Ms. Fernandez said reports that the City of Miami is hard-pressed to pay $45 million for a loan it took to pay for its contribution to the tunnel project will have no effect on the project because the state already has received the city’s money.To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.