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Exclusive: Harriet Heads West In PortMiami Tunnel Milestone

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Westbound tunnel of new PortMiami Tunnel (Source: CBS4)

Westbound tunnel of new PortMiami Tunnel (Source: CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBS4) — The behemoth drilling machine carving out the new PortMiami’s Miami Access Tunnel may be nicknamed Harriet, but man, does she have a bite.

“It’s something new, it’s something unique,” said Maggie Fernandez of Miami-Dade County. “It really puts us on the map as an international city.”

Three months after South Florida watched Harriett tear through the final chunk of the future eastbound lane of the tunnel, Vice President of the project Christopher Hodgkins gave CBS4 News an exclusive look deep into the darkness, 120 feet below sea level.

He’s got every reason to be excited.

“We’re on time, we’re on schedule and we’re on budget,” Hodgkins said. “Today we start on the westbound lanes.”

The tunnel will span from Macarthur Causeway to PortMiami diverting semi trucks from downtown.

Leaders say it’ll ease congestion, save roads and increase safety.

83-percent of project employees are from the county.

It took three months to spin Harriet around and point her in the opposite direction.

Tuesday was a milestone.

“The face shield on the cutter is going 4 revolutions a minute,” Hodgkins explained. “And it’s digging its way into the westbound lane.”

On an average day, Harriet can chomp through twenty feet of earth. On its best day it can clear 50-60 feet. But when the massive machine hits the coral rock deep in the earth, crews are lucky to get four feet.

“We changed the teeth in our head three times while coming over,” Hodgkins said.

It’s time for the crew to head back west, back under water where few men have gone before. But all led by one, tough woman named Harriet.

We’re going to complete that westbound lane in April, 2013,” Hodgkins said. “On May 15th, 2014, we’re going to have substantial completion.”

The nearly one billion dollar project, paid for by bonds, is just part of PortMiami’s future plans. Those include dredging the port.

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