Port of Miami Tunnel Dig to Get Into High Gear

Nearly 1,000 jobs have been created from infrastructure project

By Hank Tester
|  Monday, Jun 20, 2011  |  Updated 6:32 PM EDT
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The big dig in Miami is creating jobs for South Florida.

The big dig in Miami is creating jobs for South Florida.

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Beach goers have been watching the rapidly expanding construction site on the MacArthur Causeway next to Parrot Jungle on Watson Island. 

Cranes and drill rigs reach to the sky and workers swam all over the site. Heavy equipment moves dirt and the beehive of activity is geared toward the arrival of a huge boring machine from Germany.

But the real muscle behind tunnels being built under the causeway is straight out of Miami.

So far, 899 jobs have been created through the construction effort, with over 70 percent of the workforce being from the 305.

The new jobs were just what the doctor ordered for people like 65-year-old Christine Tully, who was unemployed but now has a job as a safety control agent through 2014.

"I was lucky. I was looking for a job and I got a great job," she said.

By the end of the month, even more activity will surely be noticeable for commuters along the Causeway.

The boring machine, which will be assembled underground after arrival is expected to be shipped into Watson Island late this week.

With the boring machine in place, the $1 billion-plus Port of Miami tunnel project will enter a critical stage. The project is meant to alleviate downtown truck traffic and enable container trucks to easily enter and exit the port. 

The project will result in twin tunnels, both 41 feet in diameter, that will dip below Government Cut at a depth of 125 feet.

As larger cargo ships begin to arrive in Miami it will take more trucks to transport cargo to and from the Port of Miami. The new tunnels are designed to handle that volume plus eliminate the dangerous bottle neck that occurs daily in downtown Miami.

The current traffic pattern puts the 18-wheelers along Northeast 1st Avenue and routes them across Biscayne Boulevard and into the Port.

The mix of passenger cars and trucks has been a civic concern for years.

But the tunnels are also solving some economic jams locally.

Since it began, more than $190 million has been pumped back into Miami businesses for services needed for the big dig, said Christopher Hodgkins, vice president of Miami Access Tunnel, the group in charge of the project.

More jobs and money are expected to be needed before the dust settles, which was local officials pushed for when they agreed to the project, Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said.

"This is the best public works project ever," he said.

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