Friday, July 20, 2012

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Obama Administration expedites key port infrastructure projects

President Obama has named seven of the country's most critical infrastructure projects, which involve the expansion of five U.S. ports and a pledge that all Army Corps of Engineer reviews and permits for these projects will be completed by or before September 2015.

As part of the White House "We can't Wait" initiative, five U.S. port infrastructure projects will be expedited by the Executive Order, including the Port of Jacksonville, the Port of Miami, the Port of Savannah, the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the Port of Charleston.

"This announcement represents more good news for our deepening project, and demonstrates that the highest levels of our government understand the critical need to advance this project," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA). "We are grateful for the Administration's commitment."

Both the American Association of Port Authorities and the AFL-CIO issued statements supporting the port infrastructure initiative.

"These types of projects not only aid in the efficient movement of freight," said Kurt Nagle, AAPA president and CEO, "they pay long-term dividends by supporting job creation and economic growth, and help to ensure America's international competitiveness overseas.  We hope that additional water- and land-side access projects at seaports will be added to the list."

"Over 13 million Americans work in port-related jobs and port activity accounts for more than 3.15 trillion of our GDP," noted Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department. "This economic activity is threatened if maritime vessels can't move through our navigational channels or if intermodal connections to rail yards and roadways are not improved."

Due to the Executive Order, The Port of New York and New Jersey's $1.6 billion dredging project will be completed by 2015. The largest East Coast seaport complex will also raise the height of the Bayonne Bridge by up to 215 feet to allow for the passage of giant post-Panamax ships by 2016, costing an additional $1 billion.

For the Port of Jacksonville, the Corps will shave seven years off the 10-year federal feasibility study on deepening the harbor to 50 feet to accommodate larger ships, and will also speed up the permit process for a new $45 million Intermodal Container Facility. Both will be completed by 2013.

Dredging studies will also be expedited for the Port of Miami, the Savannah Harbor, and the Charleston Harbor, according to the White House announcement.

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