Monster boring machine from Germany to dig Port of Miami tunnels
By Ashley Hopkins
About 900 people have done work on the Port of Miami's twin tunnel project, a number that stands to rise as a four-story boring machine makes its way to Miami-Dade. About 350 are working on it now.
The tunnels, which will stretch from Watson to Dodge islands, are meant to thin downtown truck traffic and improve access to the port.
The dig will rely on a 540-foot-long boring machine, to be shipped to Miami-Dade this summer. Herrenknecht, the Germany-based firm that is constructing and shipping the machine to the county, has built and tested all equipment and expects to disassemble and send it to Miami by late June, says Liz Fernandez, a project spokesperson.
In the meantime the county is doing all it can to prepare for the machine's arrival.
Port officials have contracted with Bouygues Civil Works of Florida, which is conducting its own equipment tests through mid-April. According to Ms. Fernandez, the company is now installing excavation support systems and a launching pit at the Watson Island location. While reassembling the machine in Miami should take about three months, underwater mining is to begin in October.
The eastbound tunnel will run from Watson to Dodge islands and should take about seven months to bore. While construction on the first tunnel should wrap up in spring 2012, according to Ms. Fernandez, the westbound dig should be complete in 2013.
Contractors will complete roadway improvements through 2014 and the tunnels, which should dip to about 120 feet below sea level at their lowest point, should be open to traffic by May 15, 2014.
To finance the work, the Florida Department of Transportation is to pay $457 million, Miami-Dade County $402.5 million and the City of Miami $50 million.
According to Ms. Fernandez, construction is to total about $607 million. Miami Access Tunnel, the team charged with designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the twin tunnels, is to receive $100 million in milestone payments during construction and is to self-finance the remainder, partly through a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan from the US Department of Transportation.
The company is to receive an additional $350 million once construction ends.
Operation and maintenance costs are to total $200 million over 30 years, financed through state funds set aside for the project.
According to Ms. Fernandez, about 900 people have worked on the project since last year, with more than 350 now working in design, construction and administration.
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