Mistake delays Miami Port Tunnel start Nov 2011
Paula Wallis, TunnelTalk
- A last minute legal fiasco has delayed the start of excavation and caused confusion for the Port of Miami Tunnel project in Florida.
TBM assembled and ready to go
- The widely publicized TBM dedication set for today (4 November, 2011) and the start of excavation set for Monday was called off yesterday after a Key Biscayne City councilman sent a last minute notice to Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) indicating that the City was considering a legal challenge to the project on environmental grounds. The DEP received the letter just before a legal window to file objections closed and it was about to issue the final permit to begin tunnel boring.
- Councilman Michael Davey directed the City Counsel to send the letter questioning the procedures set up to ensure that tunnel muck to be used for a nearby ecological restoration project was clean.
Highway tunnel alignment
- Davey said he was concerned the City would not have an opportunity to review the issue before the legal window closed, and sent the letter asking for a 30-day extension.
- A terse statement issued by the State yesterday (November 3, 2011), postponing the start of excavation, was the first time the rest of the City Council heard of the letter. "This was a surprise to all of us," said Key Biscayne Mayor Franklin Caplan. "This action should not have been taken. It was a well-intended action that went awry." After reviewing the muck disposal procedures in question, the City agreed that the proper protections were in place.
- Councilman Davey has since apologized for his mistake saying "what I did was procedurally improper" but frantic action which was then taken to withdraw the letter came too late to rescue the TBM dedication ceremony and the start of excavation.
Artist's impression of the tunnel portal
- By Thursday evening, the DEP had not received official notice from Key Biscayne withdrawing the legal letter, and a spokesman for the tunnel concessionaire, Miami Access Tunnel (MAT), said excavation is on hold while the DEP sorts things out and the permit is in the concessionaire's hands.
- Meanwhile the 42ft (12.8m) Herrenknecht EPBM is assembled at the center of Watson Island ready to begin the undersea drives. MAT Group, led by the French conglomerate Bouygues, signed a $607 million design-build contract for the 3,900ft (1.1km) long twin-tube, four-lane tunnel in June last year (2010) which is designed to divert heavy port traffic away from the city streets of Miami and direct it instead through the tunnel and via a widening of the MacArthur Causeway from Watson Island to Interstate Highway I-395.
- A new date for the commencement ceremony is yet to be announced.
- Miami Port Tunnel gets underway - TunnelTalk, July 2010
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