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Port Tunnel A Bad Idea

Here we are in a financial crisis that is tearing apart our city services, and the city is still moving forward with plans to spend millions of dollars it doesn’t have on an expensive Port Tunnel it doesn’t need. This is exactly the same type of mismanagement of taxpayer dollars that produced the stadium deal, and that led to the current fiscal crisis. Rather than saving money, every last bit of capital the city has (and even some that it doesn’t have) are going to go into pushing the tunnel. Local cargo and transportation experts will tell you that the Port Tunnel is essential to competing with the Panama Canal expansion when it opens  in 2014, but a recent MPO study championed by Commissioner Joe Martinez shows that the rail alternative would be just as good and could be coupled with a passenger rail line that would finally connect the airport to the   - something that would make the port much more competitive than the Port Tunnel. Inside information at the port reveals that traffic is down (no kidding), but the city presses ahead - squeezing the police, firefighters, and every other union it can find for a few million dollars. I urge the commissioners to rethink this expenditure in light of our current fiscal problems, and the availability of better alternatives.

PS. Don’t let dollar amounts fool you. Original estimates for the port tunnel were in the range of $1.5 -$2 billion, but now officials estimate that the cost will be $600 million. Hmmm…so the expansion of a normal highway (like I-395) will cost $500 million, but a tunnel running under Government Cut will only cost slightly more. Really? Sounds like fuzzy accounting to make the tunnel seem like the cheaper alternative. Why not redo the rail estimates as well to see how much lower they come in. And while you are at it, include in the cost of the port tunnel the price of the I-395 super expansion ($600 million), because the only reason that is moving forward is to accommodate the increase in truck traffic from the tunnel.

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  1. Richard R-P says:

    How certain are you of the funding sources for this proposed project? As far as I know, it would be funded by the Florida DOT, not the city. Transportation funding is always going to be used for transportation; it’s not going to be re-dicrected to other expenses such as firefighter pensions, for example.

    I think it’s a good idea to segregate these port-related trucks from the general traffic stream. These trucks really do seem to impede the flow of traffic, especially at the I-395 on- and off-ramps. Now, whether a tunnel is the best way to achieve this is another matter altogether.

  2. Richard,

    While the state would be handling the bulk of the cost, the County and the City would be on the hook for a sizable chunk. The city, if I recall correctly would have to chip in $50 million.

    Segregating the trucks is a good idea, but eliminating them altogether would be far more beneficial - if we instead concentrated our efforts on a viable rail link to move containers from the port to an inland port facility, the truck traffic point would be moot. Problem is, the truck lobby is too powerful and, like it or not, the truckers actually like sitting in traffic to a certain extent.

  3. Felipe Azenha says:

    wouldn’t this end up being more expensive and take more time to deliver cargo to the port? The containers would have to come of the trucks loaded onto a train, unloaded off the train, and then loaded onto the ship. Logistically it would complicate things a bit more, right?

  4. Compared to sitting in traffic? I’d doubt it. We should do a case study of the Port of LA/Long Beach - they have a fairly successful inland port facility connected by rail.

  5. Richard R-P says:

    Gabriel, thank you. I stand corrected. I just read about the city’s $50 million contribution in this week’s issue of Miami Today. They also discuss the proposed rail alternative in the article.

  6. Brad K. says:

    Here we are again with a similar pattern - forcing one overpriced alternative through the system with little debate and public input. Now the $50 Million is slated to come from the OMNI redevelopment funds and the City is stuggling to find the $750,000 or so that are required to issue the letter of credit for the $50 Million by October 8th. makes a lot of sense - let’s take money from the poorest and most dispossessed to fund a pet project that should be financed on a regional basis.

    The Railroad alternative really should be explored, at least in combination with the tunnel. Perhaps in this forum in the absence of any other. It is estimated that eash double decker container train can take 150 trucks off the road. Trafic disruption would be no more than a regular stop light cycle and a drastic impact could be made with as little as 3-4 trains per day. Containers would be offloaded directly onto the RR cars and transported to the Hialeah yard for loading onto regular trucks. This for a prices of as little as $20 million, which is required to upgrade the existing tracks and signaling equipment.

    FEC Railways (now Rail America) has been forced to reach out to community and transport groups due to the lack of response and stonewalling by the current administration - obviously wedded to the port tunnel over all alternatives.

  7. A.B. ROGERS says:

    I”ve lived in Miami Dade for 61 yrs had a business for 35 yrs so I fell that I should say somthing about this. As far as the financing goes does anybody rember the metro rail? The voteing public said NO to that bond, but when a politician or a group of politicians want money for a pet project they find a way. In that case the way was Merrit Sterheim and his creative financing. What ever it was it cost the tax payer.So no matter what the public wants it doesn”t matter the politicians will find a way to circumvent the will of the people.My question is who is going to build this hole in the ground?I know a French led conglomerate has the contract but who will do the actual work? Lets hope that they hire local people. With the local unemployment rate what it is we the unwashed and uninformed masses can but hope that the politicians in this bannana republic called Miami Dade do the right thing. But being politicians they won”t they only care about big buisness not the people who put them in office.( oh I forgot big business put them there didn”t they)

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