After months of drilling beneath Biscayne Bay, the Miami Tunnel boring machine nicknamed "Harriet" broke through onto Watson Island Monday morning completing the westbound tunnel.
It marked the final drilling phase in the $1 billion project, and brought local officials and spectators out to see the $45 million machine break through around 8 a.m.
"I just got off work at 6 o'clock this morning to come see it," terrence Wright said. "It's amazing, good for the city."
Harriet has traveled an estimated 8,400 feet since November 2011 to create the twin tunnel chambers which will link Watson Island with the Port of Miami.
The project's goal is to link Interstate 395/State Road 836 with the Port of Miami and the increase in traffic will mean an increase in port capacity. Cargo trucks which now travel through downtown Miami will be routed across the MacArthur Causeway into the tunnel, under Government Cut and up onto the Port.
"[Drivers] don't have to get out in the streets of the City of Miami, they have direct access from expressways right into the port and right out of the port," Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. "So it will allow the City of Miami to also have better economic development there."
Promoters of the project, which began May 24, 2010, say the tunnel will make the port more competitive and enable it to accommodate the huge loads expected when supersized cargo ships are able to navigate the widened Panama Canal.
The tunnel project, and companion projects which included dredging the Government Cut and the upgrade of the existing railway spur to the port, will greatly enhance the flow of cargo in and out of Miami.
The project is expected to be completed in 2014.