MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Big green highway signs with their messages blacked out with dark tape are hanging over major roadways in and around downtown Miami. The mystery signs covered with black tape are erected on Interstate 95, the Dolphin Expressway, the MacArthur Causeway and various ramps to and from the roadways directing traffic to, well, nowhere.
What’s up with the obscured signs up there?
It is signage that will lead the way to the Port of Miami Tunnel when the engineering marvel opens sometime in late May. The moment will signal a better life potentially for hundreds of thousands of people.
With the present access to the port, downtown Miami streets are a traffic jam of eighteen and four wheelers. At least 16,000 cars, trucks and busses have to cross Biscayne Boulevard – sever the city center every day – to the get to the port via the lone existing bridge.
When the tape comes off the new signage next month, it will lead the way to the new, non-stop tunnel for cargo and cruise ship traffic.
The effect will be to remove a motorized mess from the middle of the Magic City.
“You’re pulling that away and you’re getting a direct access from the interstate highway straight into the Port of Miami Tunnel,” said a beaming Liz Fernandez Tuesday. Fernandez is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation which built the $1 billion dollar tunnel in a public/private partnership.
The tunnel, a remarkable piece of work, was dug with the use of a behemoth drill bit, nicknamed Harriett, that rotated her way beneath the bottom of Biscayne Bay, creating eastbound and westbound non-stop vehicular tubes.
The immense project was completed in what by most standards would be considered lightning quick time.
“We were able to move very quickly,” said Fernandez of the time from the first shovel of dirt being turned to the tunnel opening in a few weeks. “We started in May, 2010 and we’re finishing in May, 2014,” Fernandez said. “Four years.”
Those with business at the port are giddy at the prospect of a direct shot to and from Dodge Island.
“It’s awesome. I can’t wait,” said a worker who was stuck at a traffic light on Biscayne Boulevard Tuesday.
In addition to honks of happiness from those who have to drive to and from the port, there is joy among hundreds of thousands who live or work in the city and are about to say goodbye to a constant traffic tie-up.
“It’s fantastic news. It will make my commute back and forth that much easier,” said downtown white collar worker George Panas Tuesday. “It’s great. I’m really looking forward to it.”
He doesn’t have long to wait. By the third or fourth week in May, tape over the signage directing traffic to the port will be peeled away, leading to the light at the end of the tunnel.
It will mark the end of an era of vehicular aggravation and gridlock in downtown Miami.