Jet fans, bolts cause delay to PortMiami tunnel public opening

Opening ceremony held for new tunnel May 19

MIAMI – It was a made-for-TV celebration.

A parade of costumed dancers emerged from PortMiami's new tunnel May 19 to mark what was supposed to be the nearly $1 billion project's grand opening.

Nearly a month later and the underwater tunnel is still not open to the public.

There are excessive vibration problems with the project's massive jet fans, port tunnel project Vice President Chris Hodgkins explained in an email to Local 10's Christina Vazquez.

Inspectors are trying to find the cause, but it is a problem that has already decommissioned two of the 44 jet fans.

Paris-based contractor Bouygues is facing delays in passing pressure tests for the tunnel drainage force main.

Structural ceiling bolts didn't pass torque tests and a certificate of occupancy has yet to be obtained.

The tunnel was created to help ease traffic in downtown Miami, providing a direct link for cargo trucks to travel from PortMiami to Interstate 95.

Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Thomas Martinelli told Local 10 the agency's No. 1 priority is public safety. That's why re-inspections and testing programs are continuing.

Bouygues is absorbing the cost of these delays with a daily fine of $115,000. It is a penalty fine for not opening on time and is paid to the tunnel operator, MAT Concessionaire.

The Florida Department of Transportation said the silver lining is that the taxpayers are saving money. That is because the contract was written to protect taxpayers from dolling out payments should the project be delayed, meaning the FDOT will not be paying $32.5 million a year to MAT Concessionaire as agreed upon until the tunnel is fully operational and safe.

Local and state transportation officials and Bouygues met Wednesday afternoon and announced the tunnel would be open mid to late July.