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Fans, Drainage Issues Delay PortMiami Tunnel Opening

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Despite the fanfare and celebration last month to mark the completion of the PortMiami Tunnel, it's still not open.

The Florida Department of Transportation said addressing some unexpected last-minute problems will move the opening to at least late July.

The $1 billion, four lane, two tube tunnel was expected to open by the end of May. The anticipation cooled however when the issue of the defective fans came up.

Chris Hodgkins, a spokesman for the management company operating the tunnel, said 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.

"Those fans are important for dealing with toxic fumes. when there's a fire in the tunnel it's not the fire that kills, it's the toxic fumes," said Hodgkins.

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.

The FDOT said Bouygues has taken on a full re-inspection and testing of the fans in conjunction with the manufacturer. They've been returned to the manufacturer's facility for a complete inspection. This will occur over the next three weeks so as to have the ventilation system ready in late July.

Bouygues has experienced unforeseen delays in passing the pressure tests for the tunnel drainage system. Repairs are expected to be completed by June 23rd so testing and commissioning of the water main pipe and the complete drainage systems can be finalized by June 30th.

The FDOT said there were a few of the bolts attaching certain elements of the tunnel mechanical and electrical systems that were found not to meet the specified torque criteria. Bouygues immediately corrected the problem and is currently in the process of submitting their final report to FDOT.

Click Here to watch the report.

"We want to make sure when the tunnel does open that it's safe," said Lt Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera after touring the tunnel on Thursday.

Bouygues has received the necessary permits to occupy the buildings. Remaining approval from the State Fire Marshal is contingent upon the successful commissioning of the force main and jet fans.

In the meantime, Bouygues is being fined $115,000 per day until the tunnel is open to traffic. If the tunnel opening is delayed until late July, the fine will approach the $8 million mark.


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