Driving through the nearly completed Port of Miami Tunnel on a golf cart is like going on the world's most expensive theme park ride. In 88 days, the construction site is expected to transform into the largest bored tunnel in North America. Currently, it looks like a Universal Studios homage to Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The underwater passageway will facilitate travel to the Port of Miami from the MacArthur Causeway. New Times went to check up on the tunnel's progress 55 months and $643 million in.
The tunnel is on track and on budget, according to its VP, Christopher Hodgkins, and the idea behind it is to help large trucks transport goods to the Port of Miami, which is being deep-dredged to allow for a new breed of ships. The Panama Canal is being expanded, which means the best trade route in the world is about to become more effective. Many U.S. cities -- including Jacksonville, Charleston, New York, and Savannah -- are gearing up for the expansion, but Miami has the closest U.S. port to Panama.
The Panama Canal project has stalled because of contract disputes, which has led some observers to speculate that the tunnel could become a billion-dollar boondoggle. However, the Wall Street Journal reports there could be a settlement as soon as Tuesday, which means Miami stands to profit greatly from the underwater passageway three months from now.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly at the construction site. The roadways are nearly 50 percent complete, and the rest of the pavement will be set in about two weeks, Hodgkins says. Over the course of five years, the public-private partnership he helps lead has also created 968 jobs in a city with an unemployment rate of more than 9 percent. This is a particular point of pride for Hodgkins, who considers himself the Duke of Watson Island, the manmade landmass from which operations are based.
"This is an organic project where 83 percent of workers live in Miami-Dade, and we've got a diversity that mirrors the county as well as $400 million worth of local contracts," he noted during New Times' tour. Although the tunnel will be upstaged by one in Seattle a couple of years after its completion, it's still a majorly impressive feat to bore through the Earth and create a passageway 120 feet below sea level. See for yourself:
These 50-ton metal flood gates are covered in Spanish conjugations of the word "navigate."
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Christopher Hodgkins is vice president of the Miami Tunnel project.