Columns

Guide To Trashing Taxpayers: The Port Tunnel

This week, Miami New Times published a guide to the eight of the worst public works projects in Miami-Dade, where bureaucrats and elected officials take pride in wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on crap residents have little-to-no use for. As we reveal each one of these boondoggles on Riptide, we're asking readers to send us their suggestions of the most asinine things local government has built in your neighborhoods. We've also been posting each boondoggle on Riptide and asking readers to submit their own suggestions for the biggest wastes of taxpayer money. On Monday, we'll announce our winner, who will get a seven-day pass to ride Miami-Dade Transit.

Today, we venture out to Miami's version of the Big Dig in Boston.


Port Tunnel
Year built: Currently under

construction
Cost: $1 billion and counting
What's dumb about it: It will wreak

havoc on Biscayne Bay and the MacArthur

Causeway.


Why it was built: To mitigate

container truck traffic.

The premise behind the project doesn't

hold water. Since the '80s, city, county, and state leaders have

touted the tunnel as the best way to remove big-rig trucks entering

the Port of Miami from the streets of downtown Miami. Despite

warnings from skeptical politicians such as county Commissioner Joe

Martinez that the tunnel could become Miami's version of the Big Dig,

the Boston tunnel project that cost five times the original price, it

is moving at full-bore.

But consider: The Port of Miami has lost

cargo and cruise business to Port Everglades in Broward. Truck

traffic at Miami's port has dropped from 32,000 vehicles in 1991 to

19,000 today. Last year, truckers told New Times the

problem is not the streets of downtown Miami, but the slow entrance

to the port's heavily secured docks.

Alejandro Arrieta, who owns Delta Line

International, a shipping line that has been in business for a

decade, said delays have more do to with Homeland Security screenings

and union labor than traffic. "We all know the Port of Miami is

the most inefficient on the East Coast," Arrieta lamented.

"That's not going to change with the tunnel."

The tunnel project never would have

gotten off the ground if it weren't for President Barack Obama. The

commander in chief's economic stimulus package provided the final

$100 million to get the tunnel, um, off the ground.

Construction

began this past August when the $45 million boring machine nicknamed

"Harriet" began digging through the limestone beneath the

MacArthur Causeway. The tunnel should really be renamed the Great

Make Work Act of 2011. County leaders boast it will create 400 jobs

during its construction.

Environmental activist Alan Farago says

the project isn't worth the damage it will cause to nearby coral and

the Biscayne Aquifer. He notes the dredging company is using

unidentified polymers to fortify the crumbly limestone.

"How

much polymer is going to be used?" Farago wonders. "What is

the effect of unleashing carcinogens into the bay? If there are toxic

agents being introduced, who is going to stop the project?"

Nobody is going to stop it, no matter

what the cost, dummy! So fire up Harriet and let's rock and roll!

Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:

Marc Sarnoff's Circle
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Interstate 95 Golden Glades Flyover
Hialeah Okeechobee Road Landmark
Metrorail M-Path<
Miami Gardens Drive Park & Ride Lot

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.