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Friday, July 25, 2008

$100 million port planMoney needed for roads; Cecil could go private


Jacksonville Business Journal - by Mark Szakonyi Staff Writer


JACKSONVILLE -- Mayor John Peyton plans to present by September a more than $100 million plan to improve roads around the city's growing port.

Within six months, the city also will decide how to market Cecil Commerce Center and whether it will retain control of it, sell it to a private developer or enter into a public-private partnership.

The addition of new Asian shipping service by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. and the expected deal with Hanjin Shipping Company Ltd. are projected to triple the port's container traffic. That means adjacent roads could see up to 8,500 trucks daily by 2020, said Jeff Sheffield, director of planning for the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The Mitsui terminal is set to open in January and Hanjin is expected to sign an agreement with the Jacksonville Port Authority soon.

Peyton said it wasn't clear how much money the city would give to the infrastructure investment. In June, he told the U.S. Congress that it would take about $325 million to make the necessary highway improvements and $100 million to build a new rail yard.

Jacksonville City Council President Ronnie Fussell has formed a new committee to help the port authority and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority seek federal funding for infrastructure improvements. Helping to prepare the initiative are the port authority, the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation and Gov. Charlie Crist's office.

On Cecil ownership, Peyton said privatizing the 4,500 undeveloped acres owned by the city would give it stability not likely to be found under city ownership. Changes to the city's mayor, city council president and the head of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission could make it hard to maintain a steady path.

But the city's keeping enough property to host a large manufacturer would be an excellent economic enticement, he said.

The city doesn't have any potential tenants for such a "megasite." City officials are talking with about half a dozen developers interested in buying the Cecil site, but Peyton declined to name them.




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