PortMiami is set to open its new, billion-dollar tunnel this week. It’s the jewel of a $2 billion port makeover, which includes a major dredging project and skyscraper-size loading cranes for sending a lot more auto parts to Brazil and getting a lot more handbags from China.
But the long-term success of that effort may depend to a large extent on whether a quarrel gets solved a thousand miles to the south. In Panama.
When the United States built the Panama Canal, it faced harrowing obstacles, from mudslides to malaria. But history doesn’t appear to show a financial dispute with contractors. At least not one that halted labor on the maritime marvel, which opened 100 years ago in 1914.
Fast forward a century, to a $5.3 billion expansion on both the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the isthmus waterway. It looks like a digitally created Hollywood epic, an army of trucks and cranes erecting concrete walls more than two miles long and more than 100 feet high. The wider, deeper channels and locks are aimed at serving more massive vessels known as Post-Panamax ships. Over the next decade they should almost double the cargo the canal moves in and out of our hemisphere.
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Tim Padgett is Americas editor for Miami Herald news partner WLRN.