This Thursday the City of Miami commission votes on whether or not to contribute $50 million to the construction of a truck tunnel between the port and Watson Island. Without that contribution, the tunnel idea becomes the best bad memory all of us living here could have because public dollars allocated toward the project are removed and placed elsewhere and the project for all intents and purposes dies.
As far as we're concerned, that's the best thing that could happen because many experts predict a tunnel won't save the money generator port shipping has become. In fact, they predict that the cost of doing business at the port will inevitably rise because of the tunnel's cost ($1.3 billion at the last count) which will be passed on to the shipping companies in the forms of fees and tolls. Once it becomes too expensive to ship in and out, shipping companies will jump ship for cheaper and more accessible Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale leaving Miami and the County with the biggest money pit since Boston's Big Dig.
Perhaps we should start thinking about letting Port Everglades assume its natural roll as a container shipper and re-focusing the Port of Miami toward building on its position as the largest passenger cruise port in the world. We do not advocate removing the shipping industry from the port. On the contrary, we have been suggesting that perhaps it might be better and way cheaper to re-activate use of the existing railroad tracks attaching the port to the mainland with the idea that hundreds of shipping containers would be loaded onto railroad cars and hauled in and out in the wee hours of the morning so as not to disturb the growing number of people taking up abode downtown. It seems to make more sense. Unfortunately, the Miami commissioners are getting a lot of pressure from special interest groups to vote for the tunnel. The question is, which of the commissioners who voted against the tunnel will now vote for it? Here's hoping they don't flip-flop. That would be as embarrassing as yet another post from MVB on this subject.
Besides, if Miami has a $50 million hole burning in its pocket, we can think of a better place to spend it. Instead of throwing it at special interests-- shipping and trucking-- we'd like to see it spent where it will help the most people: here.
UpDate (2/16): The Miami Herald reports today that the FDOT officially awarded the contract to build the tunnel to Bouygues Travaux Publics. We find it interesting with each new story how cheaper the tunnel gets. Today the estimated cost to build it is $914 million. Could it be the paper is distorting its actual cost for reasons unknown to the public? And if so, why?
UpDate (12/13): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!
UpDate (10/16/10): Because of our utter frustration with the way things went south politically here, we haven't updated in a while. Since our final post in December 2007, the tunnel not only got approved but construction has begun on widening the causeway to accommodate the tunnel lanes. Still, we find it interesting to report today that according to the Miami Herald, the Port of Miami received $22M from the U.S. DOT to upgrade the port's existing rail line that connects it to the western Miami rail yards, something we have been advocating (as an alternative to digging a truck tunnel) since this blog was founded in 2006 (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2006/07/miamis-big-dig-manny-carlos-say-it.html). Now, instead of reading the official port stance that the rail line wasn't necessary (http://miamivisionblogarama.blogspot.com/2007/10/miami-today-newspaper-jumps-on-our.html), it's now something to make port director Bill Johnson "super excited" because it will lead to "more international trade and more jobs."