Florida Marlins in Bicentennial Park seen putting squeeze play on port
By Paola Iuspa
A baseball stadium in Bicentennial Park would have an adverse impact on Miami's international trade industry by clogging truck traffic near the seaport, say Port of Miami officials business leaders.
Jorge Rovirosa, representing Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co., said bringing more cars downtown would slow down freight-forwarding trucks, delay shipping and increase operating costs. Mr. Rovirosa said his firm is the largest of three terminal companies at the port.
"Our customers are constantly looking for ports that are cost-efficient," Mr. Rovirosa said. "We are competing with the ports of Savannah, GA; Charleston, NC, and many others. If we increase our fees, those customers will decide not to come to us. The impact on our economy will be terrible."
Mr. Rovirosa said the Port of Miami generates about $8 billion a year in the local economy and is among the county's largest employers.
Mr. Rovirosa said he and leaders from the Florida Independent Truckers Association and International Longshoremen's Association, among others, were joining forces to make county officials aware that a stadium in Bicentennial Park would negatively affect the local economy. He said Tuesday he plans to meet soon with County Commission Chairman Gwen Margolis.
"I don't understand," he said. "It seems they are willing to trade the second-largest" industry in the county "for a stadium."
Francisco Norona, president of Beiswenger Hoch & Associates, an engineering consulting firm, said Tuesday at a meeting of the Community Improvement Authority that a study he had recently conducted for the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization showed that last year 3,162 cars drive in downtown every day, up from 1,947 in 1996.
Between 1996 and the time period during which the firm recently conducted its study, Mr. Norona said auto traffic in the central business district increased 62% in peak hours and was up 42% at all other times.
He said county officials were contemplating re-arranging some streets so that trucks would enter the port at Fifth and Sixth streets and exit at Third Avenue and Third Terrace. But that project would take three to four years, he said, and could patch the problem rather than solve it.
"It would only serve to channel the traffic," Mr. Norona said. "It would not ease the flow."
If more cars use First and Second avenues and Fifth Street and I- 95 ramps to access State Road 836, he said, the trip in and out the port could become a nightmare.
Mr. Norona said that could leave truckers sitting in traffic for greater periods, reducing the number of hauls they could handle daily. Most, he said, are paid by the trip.
Extra costs would be passed on to customers, he said.
The movement of merchandise to and from the port is heaviest on Thursdays and Fridays, Mr. Norona said.
"As it is right now, we are having a hard time when there are events at the American Airlines Arena," he said. "Can you imagine with a baseball stadium and a performing arts center?"
The county commission last month approved construction of an arts complex that would have buildings on each side of Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami.
Bruce Brecheisen, vice president for Seaboard Marine, a regional shipping line for Caribbean and Latin America and also an operator of one of three terminals at the port, said he agreed the waterfront is not the right place for a stadium.
"The success of a port is not only in the facility but in the accessibility to and from the port," he said. "If we can't meet our delivery time, they won't come to us. They will go to a port where their cargo will be moved faster and cheaper."
Mr. Brecheisen said to get to the port from I-95 trucks need to pass seven traffic lights and go in bumper-to-bumper when there's an event at American Airlines Arena.
"Once we get the reputation it is very difficult to get in and out of the port or that our fees are too high," he said, "we will lose customers. Then it will be to hard to get them back."