Five East Coast ports got a leg up from the White House Wednesday when the Obama administration fast-tracked the seven big infrastructure projects they are planning in order to accommodate the bigger post-Panamax ships that will start coming through the Panama Canal after its new locks open in 2015.
As part of its “We Can’t Wait” initiative, the administration said it would expedite the review and permitting process of seven projects at the five ports, including two in Jacksonville and two in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
It put on the list of projects for expedited review the plan to raise of the elevation of the Bayonne Bridge between Staten island and Jersey City to allow passage of taller ships, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Tuesday would be ready for the opening of the new locks.
In addition, the administration put the planned Intermodal Container Transfer facility at the Port of Jacksonville on its list of fast-track projects, with a July 2013 target date for completion of federal reviews.
The White House is also fast-tracking federal review of harbor-deepening projects at 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 — all are designed to handle the deeper draft of the post-Panamax vessels.
The expedited port projects are the first seven of the initial 43 projects that will be expedited by the Executive Order. The White House said additional expedited infrastructure projects would be announced in the coming weeks.
“One way to help American businesses grow and hire is to modernize our infrastructure,” President Obama said. “That’s why in March I asked my administration to identify important projects across the country where federal review could be expedited. Today’s commitment to move these port projects forward faster will help drive job growth and strengthen the economy.”
The harbor-deepening projects included among those slated for expedited review are:
-- The Port of Jacksonville. The administration said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of the economic impact of deepening the St. John’s River to the port would be completed by April 2013.
-- The Port of Miami. The administration said it would complete all federal reviews for the deepening of the port channel to 50 feet by August 2012. The port expects to put it up for bid by year-end and complete the project by late 2014.
-- The Port of Savannah’s plan to deepen the Savannah River to 47 feet will complete all federal reviews by November 2012, with construction scheduled to begin next year.
-- At the Port of New York and New Jersey, where work to deepen the harbor to 50 feet has been going on for years, the administration set a target date of May 2013 for completing all federal permit and review decisions for the final stages of the project.
-- At the Port of Charleston, the administration committed to completing all federal reviews for the project to deepen the harbor to 50 feet from its current 45 feet by September 2015, much earlier than the usual average of more than 10 years.
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