PORT OF RICHMOND GETS FUNDING FROM STATE VA. SAYS NO TO DOCK WALL

PORT OF RICHMOND GETS FUNDING FROM STATE VA. SAYS NO TO DOCK WALL

There's good news and bad news for the Port of Richmond, Va.

The good news is that the little port is going to get funds from the state for maintenance and improvements.The bad news is the state doesn't want Richmond to spend the money on adding another berth to its docks - something Richmond wants very much.

Late Tuesday the board of the Virginia Port Authority, the agency that runs port facilities owned by the state, voted to grant Richmond funds from its "Aid to Local Ports" program.

The state port authority, however, refused to disclose how much money it was giving Richmond or any conditions put on the grant until it contacted the city port.

Richmond port officials Wednesday said they had not yet been contacted by state port officials.

The state grant is conditioned upon Richmond spending the money on projects other than a plan to renovate and expand its two-berth dock wall, according to sources at the state port. The Virginia Port Authority wants Richmond to follow an improvement plan outlined by the consulting firm of Temple, Barker & Sloane, Lexington, Mass.

The study listed the dock wall project as a very low priority for the port, according to a Virginia maritime executive. The report said Richmond should concentrate on improving existing facilities and infrastructure, according to the executive.

Another source in the Virginia port community said the state port authority and the city port may still be negotiating the terms of the grant behind closed doors.

Richmond has experienced significant traffic growth since the early 1980s. To continue that rate of growth, Richmond port officials drew up plans to get more ships up the James River. Part of those plans include extending the present dock wall to accommodate a third berth.

Richmond thought it already had $6 million of state money in hand to work on the dock wall project. State port officials, while conceding Richmond was entitled to the funds, stipulated earlier this year that the state agency was still required to make sure the funds were put to the most efficient purpose.

State port officials also have noted that Richmond's expansion plan could make it a competitive threat to state port facilities.