Miami considers tunnel for port traffic

| 4/3/2006

Drivers who operate in and out of the Port of Miami-Dade could someday find themselves going underground – and under water – to get there.

Port officials, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, have long been considering a project that would dig a tunnel connecting nearby Watson Island to the port and creating a secondary entrance and exit for port traffic.

According to the project Web site, the latest plan for the tunnel – which has been in discussion in various forms since 1981 – would have the tunnel connecting Interstate 395 to the port via U.S. Highway 41 on Watson Island.

The Miami Herald reported that the Florida DOT has already begun courting construction firms from Spain, France, Australia and Brazil to handle the project. The filing deadline for these companies is April 12.

The Herald reported that the state is basically looking for someone to share the cost of the $1.3 billion project with, because the state has already decided that tolls will not be allowed to pay for it.

Under the plan put forth by the DOT, the vendor would absorb all costs for the first five years of the project while the tunnel is under construction. Once open, the public will start repaying that money.

Just how that money will be repaid is anybody’s guess. The Herald reported that everything from cargo container fees to cruise ship ticket surcharges to tax increases has been tossed around, but the state has made no official decision yet.