Port of Miami Utility Relocation for the Expansion of the Panama Canal


  • Marta Alonso - Hazen and Sawyer

This $70-million project will deepen a critical 30-year old 54-inch collection system force-main and 20-inch water main below the shipping channels of the Port of Miami.

This paper describes a $70-million project that will deepen a critical 30-year old 54-inch collection system force-main and 20-inch water main below the shipping channels of the Port of Miami.

The impetus for this project is the deepening of the Panama Canal, which will ultimately result in larger, “New-Panamax” ships engaged in commerce, hence requiring deeper ports. The Port of Miami is the only port south of Norfolk, Virginia, capable of being deep-dredged by 2014 and one of only three East Coast ports fully authorized by Congress to do so. The project consists of lowering existing utilities before the dredging operation a 24-inch water main serving the Port of Miami and Fisher Island, and an aging 54-inch sewer force main serving the urban communities of Miami Beach.

The deepening of the water main was originally proposed to be completed using micro-tunneling, but in an effort to minimize project risks, reduce project costs, and expedite the project schedule, the design-build team proposed to complete the installation using horizontal directional drilling. The 100-foot deep and 1,500-foot long installation between the Port of Miami and Fisher Island was placed in operation earlier in May of this year and is scheduled to officially reach substantial completion in December 2012. The deepening of the sewer main requires a 72-inch micro-tunnel from Fisher Island to an in-water shaft south of Miami Beach. The 1,100-foot 72-inch micro-tunnel, installed at a depth of 100 feet, will carry the new 60-inch diameter sewage force main, replacing the existing force main which transmits wastewater from Miami Beach, Surfside and Bal Harbour to the County’s force main pipeline in Fisher Island connecting to the 143-MGD Central District Wastewater Treatment plant on Virginia Key.

A pipeline inspection of the existing sewage force main, completed during construction before tie-in activities commenced, found several defective segments between the in-water shaft and the City of Miami Beach. As a result of this information, the project was amended to include a second 80-foot deep 72-inch micro-tunnel and 60-inch carrier pipe with a length of 700 feet, to replace the existing 54-inch sewage force main between the in-water shaft and the City of Miami Beach with a new 60-inch sewage force main. This project is scheduled to be completed by October 2013. This is the largest collection system sewer main project in Miami for this year, and will affect residents of and visitors to Miami and Miami Beach in the event of failure during construction.

This paper will discuss the completion of the horizontal directional drilling installation of the 24-inch water main, as well as both 60-inch force-main micro-tunneling installations, including the following issues associated with the force-main replacement: 1.The selected tunneling approach, 2.The unique tunnel shaft design utilized on this project, 3.The two-piece micro-tunnel boring machine selected to minimize environmental impacts and reduce construction costs, 4.The permitting issues encountered due to the existence of benthic communities thriving in the Biscayne Bay, 5.The investigation that found defective sewage pipe at tie-in location, 6.The pipeline alternatives evaluation completed to decide upon a second micro-tunnel layout, 7.The urban corridor that the new micro-tunnel was designed to cross through, and 8.The tight project schedule required to begin the dredging program at the Port of Miami. These projects are collectively known as the Government Cut Utility Relocation Projects, and are part of the Port of Miami Improvements Program POM. The POM Improvements Program also includes the dredging operation, scheduled to be completed by August 2014, and budgeted at $180M, and the traffic tunnel, scheduled to be completed by May 2014 and budgeted at $1B.

The Port of Miami Improvements Program is anticipated to greatly enhance the local economy, maximizing utilization of port property while improving access for ships, commercial trucks, personal vehicles and rail cars. The Port of Miami is the community’s second largest economic generator in Miami-Dade County, and as such, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Panama Canal Authority to promote new business growth via the all water route between Asia and North America’s East Coast via the expanded Panama Canal.

To request a copy of the full paper, contact the author at malonso@hazenandsawyer.com.

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