MIAMI (AP) - After four years of work and with a price tag of $915 million, the tunnel that will allow port traffic to bypass the streets of downtown Miami is ready to open this month, officials said at a ceremony Monday.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx joined Gov. Rick Scott and other federal, state and local officials to mark the completion of the Port of Miami Tunnel. Foxx called the project "good for America because thousands of containers move through this port every day."
Before the tunnel, the only way into the port was through Port Boulevard, which caused heavy traffic for cargo trucks and cruise ship passengers. The tunnel will alleviate congestion, officials said.
"It's bottlenecks just like this one that relieve what we call first and last mile problems facing our nation's ports," Foxx said at the event. "It's why a national effort to improve ports must be accompanied by a strong national surface transportation program."
Chris Hodgkins, vice president of the project, said officials hoped to have the tunnel open to the public by the end of the month. On Monday, a truck coming through the tunnel for the ceremony broke down. "We had our first incident in the tunnel today," Hodgkins joked after the event.
The tunnel is about 4,200 feet long and 120 feet below the surface at its deepest point. It has two dedicated lanes in each direction that will connect Miami International Airport and Interstate 95 directly to PortMiami, Scott said.
"If we want to become a destination not just for the world's tourists, but for the world's jobs we have to keep investing in our ports," he said.
Scott also said former Gov. Jeb Bush "put a lot of effort into this. Unfortunately Charlie Crist didn't. And we lost jobs while he was governor, but look at what we've gotten done now. We're going to get the dredge done now, and we're going to have a lot of jobs ... 33,000 more private sector jobs when all of this is finished."
Crist spokesman Kevin Cate responded in an email: "It's unfortunate that Rick Scott is attempting to score political points, once again, on something that was the result of bipartisan work, crossing three administrations - and it's another reason why Floridians don't trust Rick Scott."
A statement on the tunnel opening released earlier Monday said Crist was "quite proud of how all the partners worked together during my administration to finally get this project from the drawing board to construction." Crist is running again for governor, this time as a Democrat.
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