The Florida Dept. of Transportation breathed life into its plans for a $1-billion Port of Miami Tunnel, agreeing after days of intense negotiations with local officials and the South Florida legislative delegation to attempt to reach an agreement with its original concessionaire Miami Access Tunnel, even though MAT’s equity partner Babcock & Brown of Australia bailed out of the deal late last year.

FDOT Secretary Stephanie C. Kopelousos stated in a letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez that the agency would make its technical team available to participate in a working group with county staff, who hope to use the exisiting procurement, even though FDOT believes reprocuring would save time and avoid risks associated with continuing on the current path with MAT.

“I am hopeful this proves to be a successful path torward delivery and not additional lost time that could have been used to reprocure the project,” Kopelousos says in the letter, adding that she still considers the tunnel project important.

State and local officials agreed that commercial closure with MAT must occur by June 1, and financial closure by October 1. If either date is missed, the state will expedite reprocurement.

The state selected MAT, led by Bouygues Publics Travaux of France, in February 2008 to design, build, finance, maintain and operate the tunnel, which would reroute trucks out of downtown Miami, providing direct access to the port from the MacArthur Causeway. 

FDOT has committed to pick up half of the capital costs, $457.5 million, and $200 million for operation and maintenance. The county and city have also contributed funds.

The state would pay MAT as certain construction milestones are met, and annual maximum availability payments of $33.2 million would start when traffic begins to flow on the two 3,900-lin.-ft., 36-ft.-diameter, two-lane bored tunnels. At the end of 35 years, the tunnel becomes the property of the state.