Technical and financial experts on a Florida Dept. of Transportation/Miami-Dade County committee are reviewing three proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the estimated $1-billion Port of Miami Tunnel. They will present their recommendations to a selection committee by May 2.

One of the teams will enter into a public-private partnership to construct two 3,900-ft-long, 36-ft-diameter, two-lane bored tunnels connecting the Miami Seaport with Interstate 95 via I-395. The tunnels will provide an alternative to the Port Bridge and divert cargo-toting truck and cruise ship bus traffic out of congested Miami.

“There are multiple high-rise condos going on line with thousands of condo units [in that area],” says Kevin Lynskey, business initiatives manager for the seaport. “It won’t help development without a tunnel. This has been in master planning for more than 20 years.”

Late last month, FDOT opened the entities’ bids and released their proposed maximum availability payments (MAP), the annual amount paid to the developer for capital costs, operations and maintenance, if all elements are built to standards and available when specified. Prices ranged from $33 million to $63 million, below the $68 million anticipated by planners.

The teams in contention include FCC Construction/Morgan Stanley of Spain, with a $63.2 million MAP bid and specifying 42 months construction; Miami Access Tunnel of France, with a $33.2 million MAP bid and 47 months construction; and Miami Mobility Group of Coral Gables, Fla., with a $39.7 MAP bid and 50 months construction. FCC Construction/Morgan Stanley includes FCC Construccion of Spain, Morgan Stanley & Co., of New York; Hatch Mott MacDonald Florida of Pensacola, Fla.; and Edwards and Kelcey of Morristown, N.J.

Miami Access Tunnel includes Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group US of Canada; Bouygues Travaux Publics of France; and Transfield Services of Australia.

Miami Mobility Group includes ACS Infrastructure Development of Spain; Odebrecht Infrastructure Investments (Odebrecht Group headquartered in Brazil); Parsons Transportation Concessionaires (Parsons Corp. headquartered in Pasadena, Calif.); Dragados USA of New York; Odebrecht Construction of Coral Gables; Parsons Transportation Group; DMJM & Harris of New York; and IRIDIUM Concesiones de Infraestructuras of Spain.

The deal will provide the concessionaire with $100 million in progress payments after meeting certain milestones during construction and $350 million upon completion. The winning team will operate the tunnel for the balance of the 35-year contract and receive annual payments starting in 2013.

Lynskey expects FDOT to award the contract in August and for construction to start in 2008. Since engineering plans must be developed and permits obtained, FDOT will not give the notice to proceed for nine to 12 months.

Miami-Dade County, FDOT and the City of Miami will share the construction cost. The state and county also will commit to being 50 percent partners in a geotechnical reserve fund, in case the contractor runs into conditions outside of what is now known.

FDOT has reserved $150 million in its five-year work program for the project. Lynskey says that the county has already passed a $100 million general obligation bond program to fund the tunnel and has $114 million in State Comprehensive Enhanced Transportation System motor fuel taxes, which can be used for the project. In addition, the county could decide to toll the road. Lynskey expects county commissioners to vote on a tri-party agreement before recessing for the summer in July.

The city will contribute $50 million, plus $5 million in right of way. The seaport will transfer $45 million in right of way.