The carefully crafted public-private partnership developed to build the estimated $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel has fallen apart, with the equity partner Babcock & Brown of Australia bailing out of the deal, but area elected officials hope to keep the project alive.

“We’re looking at everything and will take a step back to look at the opportunities and options,” says Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Dick Kane.

FDOT selected in February 2008 Miami Access Tunnel, comprised of Bouygues Publics Travaux of France and equity partner Babcock & Brown, to design, build, finance, maintain and operate the bored tunnels. The tunnels would have rerouted trucks out of downtown Miami, providing direct access to the port from the MacArthur Causeway. 

Babcock & Brown could not confirm to FDOT that it had the financial ability to close the deal between MAT, FDOT, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. Earlier this month, Babcock & Brown requested the Australian Stock Exchange suspend trading of its shares and subordinated notes until it receives a final response from its lenders to its proposed restructuring.

In December, FDOT announced it would not close the deal with MAT, but area legislators and other officials convinced Secretary Stephanie C. Kopelousos to evaluate other options and keep the money allocated to the tunnel project in the work plan. FDOT had committed to pick up half of the capital costs, $457.5 million, and $200 million for operation and maintenance.

Bouygues Publics Travaux and Babcock & Brown did not respond to requests for more information.