Miami-Dade freight tunnel clears another hurdle

News AASHTO Journal October 31, 2006
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A proposed $1.2 billion tunnel from the Port of Miami-Dade County to I-395 recently won the nod of the Miami-Dade Commission, moving the project closer to reality.

The Florida Department of Transportation is to oversee the project--aimed at clearing port-related traffic from surface streets in the area and speeding freight in and out of the zone--and is slated to pay half the cost. But the county still has not identified a revenue source for its half of the project costs, the Miami Herald reported.

The state has given Miami-Dade until late February to finalize a financing plan. The state's share of the project funding may be moved elsewhere if the second half of the funding is not nailed down, state DOT officials have said.

"Some of our strategies will be gelling over the next couple of months, hopefully," said County Manager George Burgess.

Burgess said about $100 million will come from a general-obligation bond approved by voters in 2004, $114 million from local transportation fees and $47 million in the form of right-of-way donated by the port. The city of Miami is considering a contribution of $50 million.

That leaves a gap of more than $200 million, which Burgess hopes to generate by charging tolls to drive into the port or increasing user fees for cargo and cruise ships. Industries affected have said that may make the Port of Miami more costly than a competing port in Broward County.

In approving the plan, Miami-Dade commissioners said the tunnel--which would open in 2013--is necessary for Miami's shipping industry to thrive.

"At the end of the day," said Commissioner José "Pepe" Diaz, "the money's going to come back triple in more business, more jobs."

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