At the end of the Port of Miami tunnel project, the large 18 wheeler container trucks will disappear from the streets of Downtown Miami. No longer will downtown drivers be sandwiched between diesel belching Peterbilts hauling cargo to the Port of Miami.
Quietly, the billion dollar two-tunnel endeavor got underway early this year.
The cargo trucks will roll off the 836 expressway continuing east on the MacArthur Causeway and descend into a tunnel bored under Watson Island and deeper beneath the Government Cut Channel and emerging in the middle of Dodge Island in the heart of the Port of Miami. After dropping their containers, the rigs will return to the mainland through a companion northbound tunnel heading west on the causeway and on to the 836.
A massive boring machine will cut through the soil under the shipping channel and Watson Island. When the first tunnel is complete, the machine will be taken apart, shipped across the Government Cut and reassembled to begin digging the second tunnel. No explosives will be involved in the tunneling project, which should be wrapped up in the Spring of 2014.
Soil tests are underway and core samples are being evaluated to determine exactly what needs to be tweaked in the final plans for the tunnels.
"The way we structured this contract," Alice Bravo, the Florida Department of Transportation's Director of Systems Development, said, "gives the contractor great incentive to build a quality product because he is responsible for operating and maintaining it for 30 years at a price that is already established."
Within weeks drivers heading to Miami Beach will notice an uptick in work. Since the tunnel entrance and exit will be built right in the middle of the MacAuthur Causeway that space needs to be widened. East bound traffic will be routed over a newly constructed roadway that will encompass the existing frontage road on Watson Island.
"We are going to build a new roadway off to the side, then shift traffic to it and that is when major work on the tunnel can begin. The boring machine will arrive in the fall of 2011and will be at work for most of three years.
Each of the tunnels will be 41 feet in diameter and will dip to 120 feet below sea level. 400 workers will be on the job at the peak of construction.
Look for a big ground breaking event in May. Traffic slow downs for beach goers will likely follow in short order.