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Elon Musk Has A (Tunnel) Vision For Miami

When it opened in 1994, it was hailed as the greatest engineering feat of its time. The 31.5-mile Channel Tunnel, often called the ‘Chunnel’ for short, links southern England and northern France, carrying more than 10 million passengers and more than a million tons of freight each year. With 23.5 miles of the passageway running under the English Channel, the Chunnel is the world’s longest undersea tunnel.

While a tunnel underneath the Miami River being proposed by the world’s richest man, business magnate Elon Musk, wouldn’t be nearly as long or elaborate, the rewards for a city now infamous for having some of the worst traffic in the nation would be immense. And the technology to build a structure that would prevent water from leaking through Miami’s porous limestone and be strong enough to stand up to sea level rise already exists, according to two University of Miami College of Engineering professors.

“In a nutshell, yes, it’s a feasible project. This is not an idea that’s full of holes,” said Jean-Pierre Bardet, a professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering. “There are already tunnels in Florida that go beneath the seabed,” he said, noting the 4,200-foot Port of Miami Tunnel, which runs beneath Biscayne Bay, connecting the MacArthur Causeway on Watson Island with PortMiami on Dodge Island; and the New River Tunnel in downtown Fort Lauderdale. 


“The challenges are not too great, as limestone, such as that which underlies the City of Miami, is easily worked, as the PortMiami tunnel demonstrates,” said Sam Purkis, professor and chair of marine geosciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “The challenge is that the limestone is so permeable and porous, that any subsurface structure will be immersed in the water table. This is quite typical for tunnels that have to be sealed in such a way that the water does not flood them. A plus of Miami is that it’s an area which isn’t particularly seismically active, so no earthquakes to worry about.” 

To solve the problems posed by limestone, engineers employed innovative technology to build the Port of Miami tunnel, Bardet noted. Ground freezing, a construction technique used in circumstances where soil needs to be stabilized so that it will not collapse next to excavations, and rapid grout injection, which helped solidify the earth before the massive tunnel boring machines even started drilling, were used.

Such techniques, said Bardet, would conceivably be used to build the tunnel underneath the Miami River, an idea that Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has discussed with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez as a solution to the city’s traffic gridlock.

“Cars & trucks stuck in traffic generate megatons of toxic gases & particulate, but @boringcompany road tunnels under Miami would solve traffic & be an example to the world,” Musk tweeted recently. 

With tunneling projects underway in California and Las Vegas, the billionaire tech mogul’s Boring Company “constructs safe, fast-to-dig, and low-cost transportation, utility, and freight tunnels,” touts the firm’s website.

But tunnels are extremely expensive to dig, costing between $100 million and $1 billion per mile. “In order to make vast tunnel networks feasible, tunneling costs must be reduced by a factor of more than 10,” The Boring Company’s website states.

Musk said he could build a 2-mile tunnel under Miami for as little as $30 million.

“The fact that he [Musk] mentioned this and that the mayor of Miami picked up on it and that there has been discussion is extremely positive,” said Antonio Nanni, professor and chair of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering. “We need the public to think about what can be done to address the issue of transportation. And irrespective of the outcome, you need to have a dialogue.” 

The project would involve building a tunnel for electric vehicles that would connect Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard.

Such an endeavor would need to be broken into two parts, according to Nanni, an expert on concrete and advanced composite-based systems. “There are the technological issues: Can we do it in Florida? Do we have the technology? Can we address the issue of potential flooding? And the answer is, no doubt, we can,” he pointed out.

Approximately two years ago, Nanni served on a special committee that studied the feasibility of drilling a tunnel under the Miami River to alleviate traffic congestion, concluding with other members on the panel that such a project could be done.

“The tunneling itself, the technology of digging and making a structure safe, exists. It’s state-of-the-art,” Nanni said. “And the advantage of working underground is that you would not, apart from the entry and exit points, impact the communities above ground.” 

But the overarching planning for the project would need to be clearly spelled out, he said, noting that questions—such as whether the tunnel would be a passenger-only passageway or include a dedicated rail line for freight and cargo companies—need to be answered. “These are the big questions policymakers need to address,” he explained.

Still, as intriguing as a tunnel under the Miami River sounds, viable, well-deigned transit alternatives such as extensions to the Metrorail, the reintroduction of light rail, safer bike lanes, and strategically placed water taxi networks shouldn’t be abandoned, said Sonia Chao, a research associate professor in the School of Architecture, who teaches in the area of sustainable architecture and urbanism, resilient design, and historic preservation.

“Creating more road lanes, above or below ground, shouldn’t be the end game,” she stated. “But, if a tunnel were to be introduced, one would hope it could be strategically placed so as to potentially mitigate storm surge wave action, as these destructive forces of nature may accompany an increasing number of stronger hurricanes.”

Joanna Lombard, a professor of architecture who is a founding member of the Built-Environment Behavior and Health Research Group at the University of Miami, said that while tunnels typically work best when they have a clear, utilitarian purpose, other initiatives such as creating safe and diverse neighborhoods, reliable infrastructure, and walkable access to parks, schools, businesses, and health care should continue to be addressed.

“A city needs life. Tunnels are basically connecting two points, and they don’t necessarily enhance the urban fabric,” Lombard said. “We know that what makes great cities are great places. The character and dynamism of a great place has typically depended on the density of activity and the multiple layers of choice embedded in the urban grid. What that looks like in a post-pandemic world is still to be determined,” he added. “For many people, commuting in person is less necessary than was once assumed. Having destinations within walking distance in one’s own neighborhood has always been a new urbanist standard. And now that just about everyone understands that indoor air ventilation systems can be sources for viral transmission, open spaces, landscape, and parks are more important than ever.”


Source:  UM News

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With JPMorgan And Goldman Sachs, Miami Could Become ‘Wall Street South’

Elon Musk just moved to Texas, but guess who’s (reportedly) moving to South Florida? Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen and the asset management division of Goldman Sachs. Those are the boldface names announced in news reports last week alone.

The New York Post recently reported that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is open to moving his bank to Florida, too, a move he formerly resisted because he said the schools weren’t good enough.

Miami has been dubbed “Wall Street South” since at least 1990.

In the past year or three, the migration of high-profile business to Miami, and to Florida more broadly, has gained steam. There’s no income tax and the politics are perceived as business-friendly. But the state struggles to fund education, environmental protections and mass transit. There’s also climate change, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion to consider.

Starwood Property Trust is building a new headquarters at 2340 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach and CEO Barry Sternlicht settled in as a city resident in 2018. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn this summer moved Icahn Enterprises from New York City to the Milton Tower, located at 16690 Collins Ave. in Sunny Isles Beach, just north of Miami Beach. Chicago’s Ken Griffin just dropped $37M for property on exclusive Star Island and there are rumors that his firm, Citadel, will relocate nearby.

By publicly bragging about leaving “dead” New York for Miami, entrepreneur James Altucher sparked a fight over the Big Apple that put Jerry Seinfeld on the defensive. Miami is also becoming a hub for Black startup entrepreneurs: tech investor and Founders Fund partner Keith Rabois recently said he would move to Miami, with the fund opening a small office there.

Further north, hedge funds have been migrating to Palm Beach County. Tennis superstar Serena Williams has lived in Palm Beach Gardens for years, and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian Sr., recently bragged on Twitter that people were following him.

Further upstate, Fisher Investments opened an office in Tampa, a city that billionaire Jeff Vinik has been championing for years. He’s building a massive development there with Bill Gates’ Cascade Investments.

According to Bloomberg, 20 bankers with Moelis & Co. told boss Ken Moelis they wanted to move to Florida, and he is allowing it. Moelis & Co. is saving about $30M a year since the company pivoted to Zoom meetings over in-person ones during the coronavirus pandemic.

Business development groups like the Downtown Development Authority and Beacon Council in Miami and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County have helped grease such moves by identifying and bundling incentives.

There’s one billionaire, however, willing to put the kibosh on the hype: real estate investor Jeff Greene.

“This whole idea that financial services, like hedge funds, are going to be this huge jobs creator is ridiculous,” Greene told the Palm Beach Post. “You’ve got hedge funds that come down with six people and they make a big deal that we need all these office towers for them, and we don’t.”

For instance, Miami Beach recently called for office developers to put new Class-A buildings on city-owned surface parking lots. This angered some residents who feel that the city caters to wealthy developers and newcomers while ignoring the needs of the middle class.

Greene has tempered real estate hype in the past. Speaking on a Bisnow panel in 2018, Greene cautioned that low interest rates and an abundance of capital were leading to overbuilding, while Florida workers were largely low-paid.

Greene told the Post last week that Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon told him the company may move outside of New York, but no location is decided.

“I think some will come down here, they will try it out, move a few people and see if more people come, but I think the idea that every hedge fund is leaving New York City and moving to Palm Beach is just silly,” Greene said. “We will always be a service economy and there is nothing wrong with that.”


Source:  Bisnow

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