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CBS4 Exclusive: Fans Flame Out, Further Delay PortMiami Tunnel

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - CBS4 News has learned the opening of the PortMiami Tunnel has been delayed because of the failure of jet fans intended to keep air circulating and toxic fumes from accumulating in the underground passage.

The $1 billion, four lane, two tube tunnel was expected to open by the end of May and there was much fanfare at a celebration marking its completion on May 19th, with bands, dancers and beaming politicians.

The fanfare has been cooled by the issue of the defective fans.

Chris Hodgkins, a spokesman for the management company operating the tunnel, told CBS4's Gary Nelson that there are "concerns about the integrity of the fans."

The 44 fans are jet-powered and resemble jet engines on a large aircraft. During testing of the fans, two of them "experienced excessive vibration and were destroyed," Hodgkins said. The jet blades disintegrated.

All of the fans were removed and sent to be x-rayed to check their structural integrity.

The fans were manufactured by the Clarage Company for the tunnel project's main contractor, the French firm Bouygues.

Hodgkins said it's believed the jets experienced severe vibration because of the way they were mounted to the roof of the tunnel, not because of any structural defect with the fans themselves.

" There has been found excessive vibration problems with the jet fans which has caused decommissioning of 2 of the 44 jet fans," said Hodgins in a statement.  "The cause of the excessive vibration is undetermined at this time.  Given the importance of this element to the safe operation of the tunnel, the Concessionaire Team has taken on a full re-inspection and testing program of the fans in conjunction with the manufacturer."

The issue is expected to be resolved by employing a different mounting technique.

Hodgkins could not provide the cost for the 44 jet fans, explaining that they were built into the project's total budget and purchased from the provider by the main contractor.

The fans are not the only issue.

Bouygues has experienced unforeseen delays in passing the pressure tests for the tunnel drainage force main.

Some of the ceiling structural bolts have been found to not meet the specified torque criteria. Bouygues is currently re-inspecting, testing, and has requested that the Engineer of Record for the project review the results and provide findings to the Building Department.

Bouygues is also in the process of addressing minor deficiencies within the tunnel operation/maintenance software systems. Completion of the software integration is contingent upon resolving the force main and jet fan commissioning.

Hodgkins said Bouygues is working with the County and City Building Departments and the State Fire Marshal to obtain the certificate of occupancies for the project buildings and tunnel, which is contingent upon the successful force main and jet fan commissioning

When will the tunnel begin operating?

"We're hoping by the end of the month," Hodgkins said, adding that is an estimate that may change.

"We are not going to hurry anything," he said. "Safety is our first priority."

Project officials are expected to learn more on precisely how the faulty fans will be corrected in a briefing Wednesday.

The contractor, Bouygues, has been fined $115,000 a day since May 19th, the day the tunnel was supposed to have been completed.



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