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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A new tunnel underneath Miami River could alleviate traffic

Por Kvothe

The Miami River is one of the most useful and little recognized assets of the city. But crossing the waterway is worse every year, as downtown continues to grow at a fast pace. The only option on Brickell Avenue is to cross the river over the bridge, unless the vehicles could traverse it underneath, an idea that has been discussed since Maurice Ferré was mayor about 40 years ago.

The plan to build a tunnel in the Miami River is gaining strength now. Mayor Francis Suarez supports him. After all, didn’t they build a tunnel to the Port of Miami? Those who work and live in downtown are willing to support whatever works to alleviate the permanent traffic jam in the streets and the hated Brickell´s drawbridge, which stops traffic whenever it is opened to allow boats to pass. But at the same time, the river trade would be less with fewer restrictions on the movement of ships.

Six tunnel concepts developed by the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization were recently studied by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The group was opposed to designs that contemplate significant excavations for large entrance and exit ramps to Brickell Avenue, but supported alternatives that maintain "pedestrian connections along key downtown corridors".

The DDA does not want to sacrifice pedestrian walkways in downtown Miami, where more and more people live and work.

"Our goal is to encourage the use of public transportation, as well as traffic on foot and by bicycle", said Ken Russell, a Miami Commissioner and chairman of the DDA. "A tunnel through the heart of Brickell would discourage many people".

Construction in the area surrounding the bridge is overwhelming: several new towers are planned at the sites of the James L. Knight Center, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and the Capital Grille building.

"We could end up moving the traffic jam of the bridge to the entrance and exit of the tunnel", said R. Lydecker, a board member of the DDA, whose office is nearby.

In a feasibility study, Miami-Dade County recommended the option of two tunnels drilled one on top of the other with two lanes northward in the upper tube and two southward in the lower tube, to compensate for the lack of space. The north entrance would be on Biscayne Boulevard, near 4th and 2nd streets of the NE, where it would reach below the foundations of the Metromover line, it would go south, make a right turn on the river to continue below the bridge and avoid the Miami Circle, and would go ashore at Brickell Avenue, and the entrance would be close to 10th and 12th streets of the SE. The length of the tunnel, including the entrance and exit, would be 2.1 miles, approximately the same as the Port of Miami.

"When we evaluated the pros and cons, that concept were the most viable", said Jesés Guerra, director of the Transportation Planning Organization. "It contemplates a connection between Biscayne Boulevard and Brickell, does not include installing large ramps at central downtown, does not affect ships and cargo in the river, and allows the use of a drilling machine."

The cost would be about 900 million dollars and the construction would take between 4 and 4 and a half years. The results of the county study were presented to the Florida Department of Transportation, which will conduct its own analyzes.