Press Release Article

PORT AUTHORITY BOARD APPROVES PROPOSAL TO DELIVER 50-FOOT CHANNELS IN NY-NJ PORT BY 2009 -- Action Would Accelerate Project By Seven Years, Save $800 Million

Date: Jul 26, 2001
Press Release Number: 103-2001

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today authorized a multi-billion dollar project to dredge the region’s harbor channels to 50 feet sooner than originally planned and at a reduced cost.
The Board’s action would permit the consolidation and acceleration of existing harbor dredging projects, resulting in the completion of 50-foot channels in the harbor by 2009, seven years ahead of the current schedule. The 50-foot channels are needed to accommodate a new generation of cargo megaships that can handle more than 6,000 truck-size containers, and require deep water to operate.

Acting New Jersey Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco, who sponsored the state’s $300 million Dredging Bond Act of 1996, which provided about $130 million for this project, said he is pleased that the completion date has been accelerated.

“Completing the dredging project sooner than originally planned means the region will reap the economic and environmental benefits seven years ahead of schedule. The port region is a major economic hub of the Northeast, generating more than $20 billion in economic activity and more than 160,000 jobs. Without this project, shipping companies would have looked to other ports along the Eastern Seaboard as preferred locations for dropping off the containers holding cars, building supplies and thousands of other products that head to consumer markets in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

“In addition to the cost-savings and economic benefits, the channel deepening contains real environmental benefits, including a reduction in the disturbance of the marine environment throughout the harbor. The consolidation and acceleration of the existing projects is all around good news,” acting Governor DiFrancesco said.

Port Authority Chairman Lewis M. Eisenberg said, “We must upgrade our port infrastructure to continue the economic prosperity the maritime facilities bring to the region, and we must do it in a way that is both fiscally prudent and environmentally sensitive. Cargo volumes in the port are expected to double over the next 10 years and could quadruple in 40 years. These growth rates are due to the demand of the region’s consumers, and our challenge is to continue to serve this demand in ways that are environmentally sound.”

Port Authority Executive Director Neil D. Levin said, “The port now generates more than $20 billion in economic activity and more than 160,000 jobs throughout the New York-New Jersey region. Our $1.8 billion, five-year capital plan, which includes this major dredging project, will be the catalyst for additional economic activity. That plan calls for the expansion and relocation of ExpressRail at the Elizabeth Port Authority Marine Terminal, a proposed new intermodal facility to support Howland Hook on Staten Island, and the reactivation of the Staten Island Railroad with a new connection to the Chemical Coast Line in New Jersey.”

Richard M. Larrabee, Director of Port Commerce for the Port Authority, said, “This consolidated dredging program will have tremendous benefits for communities located adjacent to the harbor. The shorter project schedule means that local residents will be impacted less by noise and blasting associated with the deepening program.”

The Board’s action will allow Port Authority staff to enter into an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the Ambrose, Anchorage, Kill Van Kull, Newark Bay, Arthur Kill, Port Jersey and Bay Ridge channels to at least 50 feet.

The 50-foot project is anticipated to cost approximately $2.3 billion, a savings of $800 million over original cost estimates to deepen various channels to different depths sequentially.

“The savings come from a variety of sources, including drilling and blasting to 50 feet once, as opposed to dredging to 41 feet, then to 45 feet and then to 50 feet in a given area,” Mr. Larrabee said.

Of the $2.3 billion project cost, the Port Authority would pay $1 billion with the remainder paid with federal funds.

Under previous Board action, the Corp was prepared to dredge the Kill Van Kull, Newark Bay and Elizabeth channels to 45 feet, and the Arthur Kill Channel to 41 feet.

At the same time, New Jersey negotiated a separate deal with the Corps to deepen the Port Jersey Channel to 41 feet. The Port Authority will need action by Congress to allow funds currently proposed for individual dredging projects to be consolidated into one harbor-wide deepening project.

“The consolidated project has real benefits not only in terms of cost savings and reduced environmental impacts, but it also delivers an important piece of marine infrastructure to our port customers well ahead of the original project schedule.” Mr. Larrabee said.

The Board also approved two related items.

Establishment of a $60 million fund to buy and preserve ecologically valuable land to balance the port development initiatives of the Port Authority with the environmental needs of the Port District. Each state will receive $30 million.

Establishment of a $50 million fund for rail initiatives in New York and New Jersey to improve productivity and expedite cargo flow to and from the port. Each state will receive $25 million.

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