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Company Building Port Of Miami Tunnel Seeks More Money

 MIAMI(CBS4)- Executives of the multinational firm in charge of the Port of Miami tunnel project are asking for more money from an emergency reserve fund.

The fund will cover the cost of what the firm, Miami Access Tunnel, say is needed grouting in the limestone beneath Biscayne Bay, where the $1 billion roadway will be built, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.

In an unexpected twist just three months before the start of excavation, the firm said Thursday it will need money from the $150-million reserve fund to carry out the work in preparation for the October start of the year-long boring fromWatsonIslandto the port.

A contractor is expected to file an estimate of how much will be needed and that will not be known until July 15. But officials familiar with the project do not expect the estimate to exceed the reserve fund, which was included in the original $1 billion price tag, the Herald reported.

The request was seen as a red flag by the new county mayor and county commissioners in light of cost overruns in prior megaprojects, such as the construction of theAdrienneArshtCenterfor the Performing Arts and the expansion ofMiamiInternationalAirport.

According to the Herald, commissioners were upset at the news that the firm wants to tap the contingency fund, which includes money from both the county and the Florida Department of Transportation.

The dispute is over whether the FDOT, as project manager, will allow MAT to withdraw money from the reserve to cover the costs of grouting work.

Even if FDOT denies the request, the company plans to carry out the work by covering costs with its own money and then take the case to a dispute-resolution board that would decide who is right. Ultimately, the dispute could wind up in the courts, according to the Herald.

In any case, officials do not expect the project to be halted because of the dispute.

The $45 million tunnel boring machine, built inGermany, arrived inMiamilast month in pieces aboard a cargo ship. The pieces are now being transported to the median of the MacArthur Causeway atWatsonIsland, where over the next three months workers will assemble the machine. The tunnel is expected to open to traffic, mainly cargo trucks, in May 2014.

The debate over whether the tunnel project will incur cost overruns began when commissioners started considering a permit application from MAT for the grouting.

According to officials familiar with the project, the tunnel boring machine operates better when it cuts through solid rock. But MAT experts say they have found the limestone underBiscayne Bayto be extremely porous, and gaps in the rock need to be filled with the grout.

MAT executives declined to comment and referred questions to FDOT.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)




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