Port road improvement may get stimulus funding boost

Jacksonville Business Journal - by Mark Szakonyi Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE ó Road improvements needed to handle the increase in traffic expected from the portís growth could receive a funding boost from the federal stimulus package.

Officials from the city, the Jacksonville Port Authority and other planning organizations will meet June 1 to create a proposal to tap into the $1.5 billion available for transportation projects, including road, rail and port projects, said Jeff Sheffield, director of planning for the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization.

TraPac Incís new container terminal and Hanjin Shipping Company Ltd.ís yet-to-be-built terminal were projected to triple the portís container traffic. That means adjacent roads could see up to 10,000 trucks daily by 2020.

It isnít clear whether port authorities can use the federal funding for harbor deepening or dredging, said Aaron Ellis, a spokesman for the American Association of Port Authorities. The language within the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery discretionary grants is vague, but itís clear that the funding could be used to build an intermodal facility, which would speed up the transfer of cargo from ships to trucks and railroads.

An intermodal facility at Dames Point would make the TraPac and Hanjin terminals more competitive with other Southern ports, such as the Port of Savannah, which has two intermodal facilities. The federal grants distributed through the U.S. Department of Transportation range from $20 million to $300 million. Grant applications must be submitted by Sept. 15.

The last piece of funding needed for short-term construction in and around the Port of Jacksonville came in December after Mayor John Peyton committed $100 million. About half came from city coffers and the rest from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Through the stimulus package, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received about $14.8 million to deepen a six-mile stretch of the St. Johns River from Dames Point to Talleyrand Marine Terminal to about 40 feet.

The corps also received about $1.2 million to continue researching further deepening of the river so post-Panamax ships can call on the port once the Panama Canal is widened in 2014. The authority hopes to have the channel deepened to 50 feet.

mszakonyi@bizjournals.com | 265-2239



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