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DOT Tells Miami No Vote Needed on Tunnel Credit

State transportation officials say the city of Miami can approve a deal as early as next week that would put the city a step closer to a final agreement on the Port of Miami Tunnel.

State officials have told the city that a commission vote isn’t necessary to move the negotiations with private investors forward. A deal struck in June between government parties and a consortium of private investors appeared likely to fall through because a $50 million credit line has been held up by objections from the city attorney’s office.

But Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Operations Kevin Thibault said in a letter to Miami City Manager Pedro Hernandez on Tuesday that the commission has already taken votes on two occasions that address issues raised by the city attorney.

“It appears we have some good news that could facilitate a closing as early as next week,” Thibault wrote in the letter.

Thibault said the department had reviewed a 2008 version of the letter of credit and concluded that Hernandez had the authority to sign the credit letter and present it to the city commission without a vote of the full panel.

Miami city officials could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.

In a separate letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Thibault praised the county for “timely delivering its letter of credit” to the DOT. He also suggested in his letter to Hernandez that the city should take his advice so it can quickly follow suit.

“In light of the prior authorizations by the commission, the department requests the city to deliver its LOC in conformance with its obligation under the master agreement as soon as possible,” Thibault wrote. He said that upon assurance that the issue would be addressed without further action from the commission, agency Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos would contact federal officials and the private consortium “to ascertain whether a closing next week is achievable.

“I remain hopeful that together we can deliver this project,” Thibault wrote.

Miami-Dade County and City of Miami commissioners already approved the framework of the project, which is designed to relieve downtown traffic congestion. The tunnel is a major element of a multi-billion-dollar development plan that includes a Marlins stadium and revamping Bicentennial Park.

The tunnel is expected to cost taxpayers more than $1 billion, with $457 million coming from the state, $402 million from the county and $88 million from the city.

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