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Blount Island running out of room

garage The port authority considers building more space to store vehicles.

 

By DAVID HUNT, The Times-Union

 

Blount Island may go vertical to keep competitive in the automobile import/export mar- ket.

The Jacksonville Port Authority officials is looking into building garage space to store more vehicles near the roll-on/roll-off cargo piers.

Tenants want it. Authority officials say they need it. But there are questions of money and feasibility.

Blount Island is essentially landlocked. Building a multi-decked garage could pose a weight problem.

"At one point the area was all swamp," said Tim Murphy, the authority's engineering and construction director. "You have to be careful where you build or one day you'll wind up with a basement you didn't ask for."

At the request of multiple tenants, Murphy said, the authority is researching how large a garage could be built, where it could be built and how much it would cost.

No. 2 in the nation

More than 600,000 automobiles came through Jacksonville's deep- water ports in fiscal 2007, ranking the area second nationally behind New York/New Jersey, according to industry research provided by the authority.

Roy Schleicher, the authority's senior marketing director, said the international automobile market could outgrow Jacksonville if more parking area doesn't become available.

"It's not something we need to do or want to do. It's something we must do," he said. "We could take over that number one spot if we had more space."

A projected price was not available. Schleicher said he hopes plans become more clear over the next several months.

"It might not be cost-effective, but we also are wondering if our customers are going to leave if they can't grow," he said.

Space getting cramped

Larry Warren is general manager of the South Atlantic and gulf region for Hoegh Autoliners, a Norwegian company that shipped around 100,000 vehicles from Jacksonville in 2007. He said space is getting cramped, in part, because the declining U.S. economy has helped boost exports.

"If the dollar remains low and things keep going on, we may not have enough space," he said. "A year from now, we ought to be in good shape but beyond that is anyone's guess.

"Space is at a premium. If you're going to grow, you have to put the growth somewhere," he said.


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