By Deserae del Campo
Miami City Attorney Jorge L. Fernandez is to present a game plan to city commissioners in two weeks for preventing a tax on property owners to help fund a $1 billion tunnel to the Port of Miami.
Last week, Commissioner Johnny Winton asked Mr. Fernandez "to research our rights and options" to prevent a tax.
A tunnel from Watson Island to the port would allow traffic to flow onto Interstate 395 and bypass downtown, where cargo trucks jam traffic.
"At this point, we are simply working very hard with our financial and technical consultants trying to identify options that could be considered by Miami-Dade County," said Assistant County Manager Carlos Bonzon. "We have not contacted any City of Miami staff. ... It is premature to do so until we have clear financial information that we can discuss with our Florida Department of Transportation partners first before we contact anyone else."
The Metropolitan Planning Organization is studying the use of trains to haul port cargo. Mr. Winton backs the use of rail as a traffic easement instead of a tunnel.
"Every time I look at the numbers for the port tunnel, they jump," Mr. Winton said. "There isn't nearly enough money to build it, and there is talk of taxing property owners downtown and establishing a special taxing district for downtown Miami."
"In the past, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade have jointly participated in projects of mutual benefit," Mr. Bonzon said. "We believe that this project would be one of those since removing the growing number of trucks that have to drive through the rapidly developing downtown Miami will certainly be of great benefit in addition to providing better access to the Port of Miami."
State officials say they will request development proposals as soon as the state and county agree how to finance the tunnel.