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.

Proposed East/West Metro Subway Map and Tunnel Section Above. Thanks to Transit Dave for sending Transit Miami these plans from a 1998 MPO brouchure.

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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10 Responses to The Port Tunnel May Not Be All Bad…

  1. luke says:

    A heavy-rail line sounds amazing, but it’s very expensive, especially an underground line. How about we integrate a light-rail Metrorail line along this same line from the MIC- Orange Bowl- Downtown- Port. Light rail is cheaper and could later be reasonably expanded to FIU and South Beach.

    Heavy-rail is so expensive and our local politicians (and federal) aren’t willing to put down millions to build it, especially when our daily Metro ridership is barely above 70,000.

    Also, as important as a station would be at the Port, I think a line to FIU through Little Havana, Westchester, Flagler, Fountainbleau and Sweetwater would really boast ridership. It’d help thousands of people get around as well as truly help Miamians by reducing congestion and going through a dense, residential area with many dense, working and middle-class neighborhoods.

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  2. TheRealEdwin says:

    Honestly, why are we wasting a time with more expensive things when we could be using real solutions at a fraction of the cost?

    http://www.gizmag.com/unitsky-string-transport-rail-suspended/15300/

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  3. AA says:

    I like the idea of expanding Metrorail and this should be considered instead of expanding 836 for decades as the Palmetto Expwy has taught us this does not illeviate traffic. The tunnel I’m still not sold and the infrastructure at Government Center is already there for an east-west raised platform (ever wonder what that unused area 1 level below the existing rail was).

    Having said this. I think the real opportunity is to team with MDX on a joint solution along the Busway. Let’s be honest here, MDX is tolling even more roads, has the capability to manage large projects, and will get approval to run down the Busway. The question is will transit get anything? There is plenty of existing right of way (over 200′) for a truely unique integrated system of surface road (US 1), reversible expwy 2 lanes for peak traffic, and transit line with local buses on US 1.

    Let’s work on transit where it makes sense. Downtown-MIC, US-1, Miami-Miami Beach, FEC corridor. They may all be different types but these are the areas where the poulation and ridership exists and redevelopment can create TODs- Eastward Ho, Westward Woa horsey.

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  4. Meg says:

    I think investment in public transit has to come first with the knowledge that the bigger the network of stations and stops, the more useful people will find it and the more effective it will be.

    I completely agree that some sort of metrorail/subway expansion should be included in the tunnel project. As it stands, congestion, parking and general traffic to and from the beach can be atrocious especially on big weekends, like Art Basel, which seem to happen more and more frequently. Not to mention, the ridiculous amount of drunk driving that could be avoided with a better public transit system in place

    Part of the reason that metro ridership is barely above 70,000 is that so many places, like the beach and FIU, are difficult to get to. I recently sold my car in effort to be green and reduce costs and I have found it to be a tough situation in miami.

    After living in a city in Europe, roughly the same size as Miami, I have seen how an investment in public transit can pay off and be a fantastic thing for the community. Here’s hoping that someday that can happen here.

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  5. M says:

    I’m not an expert, but I do have some thoughts I wanted to share.

    To reply to Luke’s statement about Metrorail barely breaking 70,000 daily riders, I would like to say this is not a bad thing. The DART light rail system in Dallas has over 40 miles of lines (with more on the way) and that is twice what Miami has. Yet, they have less daily riders than we do. What this tells me is that Miamians are willing to ride Metrorail and would do so in the future if the trains went to big destinations…The Biscayne corridor, South Beach, FIU, the port, along SW 37 Ave to downtown Coral Gables, etc.

    In my mind it also makes sense to continue to use heavy rail for a few major Metrorail expansions, like South Beach/Port and Biscayne corridor, and then add feeder routes in the form of street cars to help draw additional riders. Using several different technologies such as light rail or heavy rail could potentially hinder expansion and connectivity. This can be seen in Toronto as the Scarborough Line is having to be rebuilt because it does not match other heavy rail technologies. Heavy rail is definitely more expensive, but worth the investment.

    The one thing holding Miami back is the misuse of money and poor management of Miami-Dade Transit. AA mentioned MDX (Miami-Dade Expressway Authority) as collaborating to create transit project. I agree. They seem to manage themselves very well and completed several major projects. Outside the box thinking is what it is going to take to get any major transit expansion.

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  6. Meg says:

    I completely agree with you M!

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  7. Oscar says:

    While it’s true that we will have our hands on this soil-specific boring machine, I’m not sure that would be the best option for building our hypothetical subway in Miami. First off, I’m not sure who will own the machine but I doubt it would be the local government. We could obviously purchase it but it’s still something to consider. Secondly, boring is normally significantly more expensive than cut-and-cover tunneling methods. Considering the already thin support for rail expansion (in terms of funding at least) this is a major issue. Third, boring normally has to be done deeper than cut-and-cover which could pose a problem with the Biscayne Aquifer. Lastly, boring also usually takes much longer than cut-and-cover.

    I think that, if we took a hard look at an underground subway, we may find that it is indeed the best option for us. Cut-and-cover tunneling can be done for virtually the same cost as Metrorail expansion, can be done under our major roads avoiding the need to purchase private property and circumventing residents’ “eyesore” complaint, and can include underground utilities under these major corridors to offset some of the cost through future savings in repair. A cut-and-cover subway can serve East-West through 8th street, 40th street, and 88th street, and North-West through 37th ave, 87th ave, 107th ave, and 137th ave. These major corridors cannot be easily served with any form of elevated rail because of the high property values, dense population, and local opposition. Using cut-and-cover, the disruption to local traffic will be minimal as only small sections of the roads will be closed at any given time and construction progresses quickly which is essential to avoid suffocating businesses immediately adjacent to the construction.

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  8. Monika easy says:

    Oscar … I totaly agree with You :-)

       0 likes

  9. maza says:

    it’s erik, with a k.

       0 likes

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