Like I mentioned previously, the port of Miami tunnel appears to be a botched solution to the accessibility problems facing the port; designed to purely benefit the routes of the trucking industry. As some of you concluded, I believe some of the congestion issues we now face could have been alleviated earlier with the use of the at-grade FEC tracks which run directly into the port. A freight train could easily haul many containers out of the port to an inland port facility (Hialeah rail yards, ROW exists and is owned and operated by the FEC.) The inland port facility would then transfer the containers to trucks, placing the truck distribution closer to many of the warehouse destinations and reducing the number of trucks traveling along our highways and downtown. As someone duly noted, the train tracks also traverse the downtown, which would likely cause a great deal of congestion if these trains were to be operated during rush hour. Therefore, the trains would serve a more limited role, with travel times scheduled after downtown activity subsides but before the morning commute (ideally from Midnight to 5 am or so.) A point I’d like to emphasize is that the rail option should have been considered, heck used on a trail basis for part of the past two decades while a more permanent solution was found, at a mere fraction of the cost of what we’re going to face with the tunnel. The port is now looking at the idea of floating barges up the river with containers to be unloaded at the river facilities. I’d like you to take note of the traffic tie-ups which will be caused as a result of the more frequent use of the drawbridges under this scenario…

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angels is currently working on a plan to use existing tracks to transport goods from the port to an inland facility. The plan is projected to remove a large percentage of the 22,000 daily trips caused by the seaport daily. The $1.7 Billion project aims to revitalize a neglected airport for cargo uses, while creating an inland intermodal cargo facility.

After writing the first article, I obtained a copy of the latest MPO Freight Access report produced in February 2007 by Cambridge Systematics. In looking through the report briefly, the study covers all alternatives including: Port Truck Tunnel, Freight Train Tunnel, at grade train crossing, 6th street highway viaduct, and River option. The study also analyzes the aforementioned LA port inland facility currently underway. Before I can draw any further conclusions on the Port Tunnel Project or the feasibility of rail or water options, I will review the study and report my findings back at a later time…

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13 Responses to Port of Miami Container Crisis, Part 2

  1. Danny says:

    My fiance runs a trucking company so I have a little bit of knowledge about the industry as a whole. First, most trucking companies are opposed to the tunnel because it will take many years to build and at a high cost. Most companies would favor an overpass that would be used for truckers only. Second, the midnight to 5 AM option for moving containers is just not an option. Most of the lines in the port, if not all, employ union workers which would be adamantly opposed to working such hours. Only one line, Mearsk Sealand, I think, is allowed to move during night-time hours and that is because they lease their own terminal in the port. Third, while moving the containers by rail seems like a viable option, the FEC would have to update their infrastructure to load and unload containers from the rail cars and onto the truck chassis. That means putting in cranes at whatever location they chose and putting forth an efficient system of getting truckers in and out of whatever railyard thy chose. I am willing to guess that the reason that LA can do what they are doing is because containers in every other port in the US are loaded on Port-owned chassis which are rented to the companies. The trucking companies must provided their own chassis in Miami. Fourth, more and more lines are shipping to Port Everglades because of the ease of use of their system. The port is open for more hours of the day, they are quicker in loading and unloading containers from vessels, and they do not have the traffic problems that plague downtown Miami. Many companies fear the tunnel solution is not really a solution because by the time it is completed, traffic would have gotten so bad in the downtown area that most shipping lines would have already taken their business elsewhere, i.e. Port Everglades. That is why most companies would favor an overpass to be used only for truckers which could be built within the next three years or so and at a fraction of the cost.

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  2. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    With regards to the FEC corridor infrastructure: The River port would also have to update its own infrastructure to adequately handle the containers coming up the river on barges, so the costs associated there can be negated.

    An overpass is not even an option on the MPO or FDOT agendas. It would be hideous and a detriment to our downtown to include any further raised highways. If I recall correctly the truckers in Miami are adamant about keeping their trips to and from the port status quo because of how much more money they’d receive.

    Evident through your own statement, our unions need to loosen up and a solution has to be found or else our port will continue to lose business to Port Everglades. This would be the ultimate detriment to the truckers and port union employees, perhaps its time everyone stopped thinking about themselves and came to the table to renegotiate on a plan that will keep our port in business longer…

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  3. Steven says:

    Personally, I have skimmed through the report and saw that a majority of it is discussing the feasability of a rail tunnel that carries containers to a more western facility. I believe this is the best posiible alternative to the ports probelms. The concept is that the port would move containers to a train and that train would run between the port and the western facility and back to the port only.

    As I read the above comment, I agree with much of what is being said, but only under the highway tunnel concept. The rail tunnel, while it would not be any quicker to build by any means, would be a better alternative to freight movement. It would take a majority of the trucks out of Downtown Miami and would essentially eliminate the tracks from downtown miami altogether, allowing the trucks to function from a western facility rather than the port.

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  4. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Steven,

    I agree and I believe within a couple of decades of the completion of the Port Truck tunnel, we will see progress begin on building the rail tunnel and inland port facility, too many years after the idea should have been adopted. The current plan is designed to protect the interests of the local truckers (remember the “strike” back in the summer of 2005 when the drove around the city blaring their horns?) The highway tunnel concept is too costly…

    The point I was trying to emphasize with this article is that the infrastructure for at-grade rail travel has existed for the past two decades while all sorts of crazy ideas were analyzed. It would require a minimal infrastructure upgrade (comparable to that of the barge idea) but we could have tested the rail theory and inland port idea sooner rather than cater to the archaic truck system which continue to clog our highways daily.

    Note: the study (since the 1980s) has included a viaduct direct to the port from I-95 over 6th street, how detrimental of an idea is that?

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  5. Steven says:

    nah, I agree with the concept of putting in a rail tunnel and that we need to all make sacrifices for the greater good of the community. The comment I was mostly replying to was the first one… you beat me by only a couple seconds with your comment!

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  6. Ken says:

    In fact, the idea of enhanced use of the existing FEC rail spur to the Port of Miami has been seriously considered by port officials. While running the trains during the overnight hours is sound, the real problem is the need for more track in the terminal yards on the port to accomodate the staging of rail cars and containers. More track = less space for storing containers. I doubt the terminal operators are ready to give up precious land. Since there is limited land on the port for that purpose anyway, the rail idea has always been scrapped. Perhaps it would get more attention if the yards could increase their stacking height. That would require a lot of new equipment and infrastructure, but in hurricane season, USCG regs would probably require only 4-high anyway due to safety concerns.

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  7. Steven says:

    That is why this study, in conjunction with finding a new way to connect the rail, is almost completly reliant on building an off-port container facility.

    The idea is that boats would unload at the port and containers there would essentially be in a holding position until the train came to take them to the larger container facility somewhere in west hialeah or doral where the trucks can pick them up from. Trains would travel in a tunnel through downtown miami and since they would be burried, there would not be any interference with the traffic in downtown Miami. Even more, by locating the container facility in the western part of the county, container trucks would no longer be needed in downtown.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Just beam them over to the inland port. Problem solved!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    One note about the L.A. tracks — I assume you’re referring to the Alameda Corridor. Comparing the Alameda Corridor to the FEC tracks across downtown Miami is kind of like comparing the Big Dig to the Hialeah Expressway, or I-95 through Broward to NW 112 Street through Sweetwater.

    All kidding aside, they should just go ahead and build a 2-lane viaduct connecting Port Boulevard with I-395 on tall, slender pillars (so the shadows at ground level will be diffused) above Biscayne Boulevard or the western edge of Bicentennial Park & AA Arena, and light it up from below to make it look pretty. I mean, Jesus, how far is it from Port Boulevard to I-395? A thousand feet? Once the road’s done, it’ll be up in the air and won’t interfere with the park and AA Arena anyway. Even if they use pigmented concrete and stamp it to look like fake brick or rocks, it’ll still be a fraction of the cost of a full-blown tunnel.

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  10. Verticus S. Erectus says:

    It’s nice to see some people are finally seeing things the MVB way. Miami Vision Blogarama has been pushing for use of the rail line instead of building a tunnel officially since July 29, 2006.

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  11. This is nice idea. It was a big help. :)

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  12. triaxle says:

    Just ship them all north to the port of Jax or Savannah. Since when do the Miami truckes want a tunnel? Who the HELL wants to sit stuck inside a tunnel with five hundred other trucks idling? Want to see what that would look like just take a trip to Norfolk, Virginia & see the congestion at the two downtown tunnels where trucks , autos, all sit below the harbor like rats trapped in a culvert pipe. The exaust is choking, the noise is deathing,& if something breaks down or there is a fire your screwed. Where would the hazmat go? Under Miami making it easier for the wakos to blow up the city..

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  13. triaxle says:

    Actually everything that is a local move (ten-twenty miles or so), mount the box & let it go out by truck or Miami truckers can bring local moves back into the port to save double work at the transfer yard. Everything else that is an OTR move send it to a new rail transfer yard designed with easy access for truckers close to the turnpike. It would be cheaper to build a super-rail-inland-port-transfer-yard moving the cans by a short haul train to a long haul yard than invest in a hole under the water that would be outdated from the start just for trucks. Trucks would be backed out of the tunnel onto the interstate with the same traffic problems. Still need a tunnel, do one for the train. This would probably expand the ocean cargo the Miami port could handle without blocking up the lower end of I-95 with container truck traffic.

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