Chamber leaders making push for city's Port of Miami tunnel contribution
By Risa Polansky
With the fate of the proposed Port of Miami tunnel resting with the City of Miami, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is leaning on officials to ensure the project takes off — and is asking other business groups do the same.
The city's expected $50 million share, yet to be approved by commissioners, is the only missing chunk of the $1 billion-plus needed to build the state- and Miami-Dade County-supported tunnel designed to redirect port-related traffic off downtown streets.
Proponents have said the project will probably die should Miami deny the money.
"We just can't wait any longer," said Bruce Jay Colan, the chamber's first vice chair and head of the seaport portion of its air and seaport taskforce.
Allowing the tunnel project to end before it begins would "severely prejudice the economy of South Florida," he said.
Miami is "already losing shipping lines" due to the cost of accessing the port, he said. "We can't keep cannibalizing our business. We can't make it counterproductive to do business in Miami-Dade."
To make clear its position, the chamber's board of directors passed a resolution last month that "urges the City of Miami to promptly agree to provide" its share, according to the resolution.
The port's "combination of cruise and cargo activities supports 81,800 jobs and $5 billion in wages and has an annual economic output in Miami-Dade County of over $12 billion," it says. "It is imperative for the future development and positive growth of the City of Miami to eliminate the 4,000 daily 18-wheel trucks and buses that pass through the downtown Miami streets each day going to and from the Port of Miami and which, at times, approach gridlock."
The chamber hopes other business groups will get on board in goading the city and has reached out to organizations "that we feel should focus on the fact that it's going to be key to our economy," said Rana Brown, chamber senior vice president of advocacy.
Mario Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum, said members are to this week discuss taking an official position on the tunnel.
"The concept of the tunnel is widely supported in the business community," he said. "I'm almost certain the Miami Business Forum as an organization will be joining the chamber and other organizations in supporting it."
In the meantime, Greater Miami Chamber leaders plan to meet with city officials to further endorse the tunnel project before the vote expected next month, Ms. Brown said.
There's no time for further discussion beyond then, Mr. Colan insists.
"We either get it done now while the (state) money is available," he said, or "it will go elsewhere, it will go to north Florida, central Florida."