MIAMI (CBSMiami) - After decades of planning and four years of construction, the PortMiami Tunnel will soon be open for travel.
Locals are slated to gather for the PortMiami Tunnel dedication ceremony on Monday, May 18th.
The Tunnel Project consisted of three components: twin tunnels under Government Cut, connections to PortMiami's roadway system and widening of the MacArthur Causeway Bridge widening, realignment of eastbound State Road A1A/MacArthur Causeway lanes and reconstruction of Parrot Jungle Trail frontage road.
Once opened the tunnel will improve access to and from the port, serving as a dedicated roadway connector linking the port with the MacArthur Causeway and I-395. Approximately 16,000 cars and trucks a day will have direct access to the port, without having to jam the streets of downtown Miami as they do now.
It took thousands of workers, and a 3,000 ton drill named Harriett, to build the mile-long, four lane, twin tube.
The tunnel project was boon to the local economy. Business was directed to 430 local companies, jobs for 7,500 people - more than 80% of them local - and $350 million put in local pockets.
Nearly a hundred cameras will watch over every inch of the tunnel and be monitored 24-hours a day, seven days a week from a master control room.
"If a truck stops in the middle of the tunnel, if a pedestrian comes into the tunnel, if a bicycle comes into the tunnel, we will immediately dispatch our response team to handle the situation," said Chris Hodgkins, vice-president of the firm managing the public/private consortium that made the $1 billion feat a reality
The tunnel is also lined with infra-red sensors that can detect a wide variety of potential problems and sound alarms alerting tunnel operators. If a truck approaches, sensors will detect if it is over the height limit. If it is, it will not be allowed to enter.
Fresh air will not be a concern. The tunnel is equipped with 44 jet fans - yes, jet fans - that will keep it cool and prevent any accumulation of toxic fumes or gasses.
In the event a fire should break out, a state of the art suppression system will immediately deploy.
Hodgkins said in the unlikely event an evacuation is necessary, escape routes are everywhere.
The towering concrete portals to the East and West ends of the tunnel are carved with various conjugations of the latin word navigas - to navigate - and they hold hardware that makes the tunnel hurricane proof.
Hurricane Sandy in 2012 flooded and closed all but one of the tunnels leading to New York's Manhattan Island.
That won't happen with the PortMiami Tunnel. It is equipped with fifty ton metal gates that come down and shut to it water tight.
At least 75 full-time employees will stay on to maintain and operate the tunnel.
PortMiami is among America's busiest ports and recognized across the globe with the dual distinction of being the Cruise Capital of the World and the Cargo Gateway of the Americas. PortMiami contributes more than $27 billion annually to the South Florida economy.
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