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Florida County Approves Bond Sale to Boost Port Eyed by Beckham

Officials in South Florida approved as much as $225 million of revenue bonds for the port of Miami to construct an underwater traffic tunnel to give trucks faster access to Interstate 395.

Commissioners in Florida’s most-populous county, Miami-Dade, yesterday unanimously approved the tax-exempt revenue bond sale, which could take place next month.

The downtown port, called PortMiami, is already undergoing $2 billion in improvements, including dredging, as it prepares to accept larger ships passing through an expanded Panama Canal.

Former England soccer captain David Beckham unveiled plans last month to build a Major League Soccer stadium at the port. The county, which owns the land Beckham wants to build on, hasn’t voted on the stadium. The tunnel would also help drivers get to a stadium near the port.

The seaport issued more than $389 million in tax-free revenue bonds in September, less than a month after Moody’s Investor’s Service downgraded its credit rating to A3, four steps above junk. Moody’s cited a growing debt burden that was on pace to outstrip net revenue. The county notified investors last week that 2013 revenue at the port had fallen $1.6 million short of promised levels, after an accounting issue was flagged by auditors.

While the county said the seaport produces enough revenue to cover debt service, commissioners agreed to backstop the bonds approved yesterday with county funds if there’s a shortfall.

Miami-Dade seaport revenue bonds maturing in 2023 traded yesterday at an average yield of 3.2 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the lowest since they were issued last year and about 0.76 percentage point above benchmark debt, the lowest since December.

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