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August: New target month for opening of Miami port tunnel

Port of Miami Tunnel Construction
Port of Miami Tunnel Construction

The Port of Miami Tunnel project is a public-private partnership which include, but not limited to, MAT Concessionaire, LLC (a Florida limited liability company) the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami. MAT Concessionaire has the oversight for design, build, operation and maintenance of the tunnel.

Under the partnership agreement, FDOT will make periodic payments to MAT Concessionaire during the construction period through completion. The operation of the tunnel will be turned over to FDOT at the end of the partnership agreement in October, 2044.

The tunnel will connect state road A1A/MacArthur Causeway to Dodge Island and will provide direct access between the seaport and highways I-395 and I-95, creating another entry to the Port of Miami.

The tunnel will improve traffic flow by reducing the number of cargo trucks and cruise related vehicles on the already congested streets of downtown Miami; especially in light of the expected increase in cargo traffic to be created by the current dredging project at the Port to expand the capacity of cargo ships and the enlargement of the Panama Canal.

In addition, the tunnel is expected to keep the Port of Miami economically competitive in the cargo and cruise markets. The Port of Miami is the area second largest economic generator to Miami International Airport and provides approximately 176,000 jobs and $17 billion in economic output for the area. The tunnel is expected to directly support over 11,000 jobs.

The tunnel was scheduled to open on May 19, 2014, redirecting a projected 16,000 port bound vehicles a day off Miami’s downtown streets. Various setbacks, including malfunctioning exhaust fans and a leaking drainage pipe, have prevented it from being ready to handle traffic.

The opening of the tunnel is now more than two months behind schedule and the contractor, Bouygues, a Paris-based company, has been paying a fine of $115,000 to MAT Concessionaire every day the tunnel remains closed past its originally scheduled opening date. At the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation has delayed its $33 million annual payment to the concessionaire until the tunnel opens.

It appears, however, tunnel is finally ready to open and handle traffic. Chris Hodgkins, Vice President of MAT Concessionaire, recently said, “It’ll be open in early August”.

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