Miami port tunnel nears opening

Onlookers take photographs of one of the first trucks to drive through the new Port of Miami Tunnel on Monday. The tunnel is the jewel of a $2 billion port makeover, which includes a major dredging project and skyscraper-size loading cranes.

MIAMI - After four years of work and 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 in to 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 (projects) 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 U.S. 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 said there would be 33,000 more private-sector jobs "when all of this is finished."