A recent article in the Miami New Times compares the Port of Miami Tunnel project to the Big Dig in Boston. For those of you that are not familiar with the Big Dig, it was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. In 1985 the cost of the project was estimated to be $4 billion; the Big Dig project ended up costing $22 billion when it was finally completed in 2005. The Port of Miami Tunnel project is estimated to cost $1 billion dollars. It quietly broke ground last week and is expected to be completed by 2014.
These two projects differ greatly. The most recent issue of Next American City covered the positive impacts of the Big Dig and how this huge infrastructure project had a positive impact on Boston and transformed the city by reconnecting areas which were previously bisected by elevated trains and highways. Peter Vanderwarker, author of The Big Dig: Reshaping an American City had this to say about the Big Dig:
You’ve liberated 100 acres of land in the middle of one of the most historic cities in the United States. You’ve removed cars and pollution from to surface.”
Boston now is a different city.
The old road was noisy, dirty smelly and ugly. [Its removal} has transformed neighborhoods. In the North End, businesses are flourishing and because of improved access, South Boston is now a very attractive place-sort of like Brooklyn of Boston.”
As is the case here in Miami, many Bostonians were skeptical if the Big Dig was worth the large investment. Today many of the skeptics in Boston may now agree that the Big Dig has made Boston a better city.
I am admittedly skeptical of the Miami Port Tunnel project and the only thing that I believe the Big Dig and the Port of Miami Tunnel project will share in common is cost overruns. So I think it is unfair to compare the two; the scope of each project is very different. The Big Dig transformed Boston into a more livable city. This massive project reclaimed once dilapidated areas and created 27 acres of parkland. The Miami Port Tunnel on the other hand is just that; a tunnel.
I don’t believe the Miami Port Tunnel will have the same transformative effect on downtown as many in Miami claim. Yeah, we will remove a few trucks from downtown, but what else will this billion dollar project deliver? Quicker access to the port for trucks? Removal of trucks from downtown? We can remove the trucks from downtown by creating an inland port that could be connected by the existing rail line for a fraction of the price.
Is the investment really worth it?
According to the Department of Transportation, in 1992 32,000 vehicles entered the port every day. Today, that number has declined to 19,000, and only 16 percent of that traffic is trucks. Apparently the Port of Miami is losing business to Port Everglades which happens to be much larger and access to Port Everglades is much easier for truckers according to the Miami New Times.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe the Port of Miami can handle post-panamex ships either. I believe Port Everglades may already have this capability, or will in the near future. In order for the Port of Miami to handle post-panamex ships the port would need to be dredged in order to accommodate the new larger ships which are coming online.
For the most part, it sounds like Port Everglades already holds a competitive advantage over the Port of Miami; a tunnel will not help close the gap. The Port of Miami will never handle the capacity of cargo that Port Everglades can, nor should it strive to.
Much like Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere, we here in Miami have a billion dollar Tunnel to Nowhere.
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