PortMiami Investment: More than Just a Pretty Picture

Apr 1, 2013

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

PortMiami is the world's busiest cruise port and a key international gateway for cargo. So it makes sense the President Obama would use it as a backdrop for a speech to highlight the economic benefits of investing in infrastructure, and specifically, the contribution of port infrastructure to increased trade.

But even before PortMiami was used as a photo op, Bill Johnson, director of PortMiami, had a vision for how Florida’s largest port could take advantage of the 2015 opening of the expanded Panama Canal—when post-Panamax ships, requiring 50ft channel depth in ports of call would begin traversing the canal. Johnson knew that with the right investments, PortMiami could become the port of call for many of those ships.

So, how are they doing it? First, there is the tunnel project. Designed to link PortMiami directly to the US Interstate Highway System, the tunnel would allow thousands of trucks to bypass the crowded streets of downtown Miami EVERY DAY – reducing congestion and increasing safety—and allow thousands of cruise passengers direct access to PortMiami’s dedicated cruise terminals.

Then, there is the Intermodal/Freight Rail Restoration. Built to give PortMiami on-port rail access, this project links PortMiami, via the Florida East Coast Railway to the national freight rail system without the costly and inefficient need to transfer and retransfer goods. Add landside port infrastructure investment to the already forward-thinking mix. PortMiami is investing in bulkhead strengthening for wharves and has purchased four additional large cranes capable of servicing post-Panamax ships with great speed and efficiency.

The tunnel, the on-port rail access, and landside port infrastructure all anticipate increased freight volumes from post-Panamax ships calling at PortMiami. The final component is actually the crown jewel of PortMiami’s infrastructure investment – the Deep Dredge Project. Conducted in multiple phases, completion of the Deep Dredge project would make PortMiami the ONLY port south of Norfolk Virginia on the eastern seaboard capable of accommodating the new, larger Post-Panamax vessels. Dredging PortMiami is such a significant priority, and would provide such economic value to the region that Florida and Miami-Dade County agreed to pay for the entire $180 million project.

PortMiami has been a leader, both locally and nationally in bringing together public and private funds to support infrastructure investment. By structuring numerous public-private partnerships where both the public and private sectors have skin in the game, all parties involved work together to ensure these investments are completed on-time and on-budget—ensuring Florida’s largest port can help America meet its goal of doubling exports by 2015.

With tides and time waiting for no one, we need to find way to act now to ensure our infrastructure investment does not get stuck on the shoals of underinvestment.

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