Friend of Transit Miami Erik Maza over at the New Times did an article a few days ago about the Port Tunnel that spurred a response from Transit Miami writer Felipe Azhena over the value of the Port Tunnel. While I agree with many of their points and I have been a critic of this project for many years, I have to chime in here to offer a counterpoint to the idea that the Port Tunnel does not have value.
Ahhh, my love/hate relationship with the Port Tunnel. I’ll start by saying that I support the Port 100%. As one of the major economic generators of the region I think that the economic health of this region is partly derived from the health of the Port. Adding the tunnel will improve access to the Port, and thus add value to the port in the long term- regardless of the ploys used by politicians to make it a reality. The tourists and trade it produces are vital to the economic health our community. V-I-T-A-L. Considering competition from other regional ports and the expansion of the Panama Canal, it is only natural that we improve mobility to/from the port to improve our competitiveness.
My big problem with the Port Tunnel has less to do with the tunnel itself, and more to do with the fact that the true scope of this project includes I-395. Current thinking is that after the tunnel is complete all the traffic is going to be diverted to I-395, increasing congestion and leading to the construction of a revamped I-395 superhighway (which is probably going to be really nice from aerial photos, but will further hinder redevelopment of an already blighted area). The real Port Tunnel Project is well over $3 billion when considering both the tunnel and subsequent superhighway that will need to be constructed. A better solution would be to tunnel the highway, and coordinate with the proposed East/West metrorail subway.
Apart from the economic benefits of expanding access to/from the Port, the tunnel should be seen by transit advocates in South Florida as a way of convincing local leaders that a subway tunnel system can work here. Not to mention we are going to have a couple of huge boring machines especially made for our unique bedrock. I don’t think we will can just put them on craigslist. Why not put them to good use?
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