The White House said Thursday that projects at five ports - Jacksonville, Miami, Savannah, Charleston and New York and New Jersey - will be expedited by executive order as part of a program announced earlier this year to make the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects more efficient and effective.
“One way to help American businesses grow and hire is to modernize our infrastructure,” said President Obama. “Today’s commitment to move these port projects forward faster will help drive job growth and strengthen the economy.”
In addition to harbor deepening projects at the five ports, the
administration included the rebuilding of the Bayonne Bridge between New
York and New Jersey so that large ships can pass beneath it and construction of a new
intermodal container transfer facility in Jacksonville.
"To have the president of the United States acknowledge the importance of the Port of Savannah — its infrastructure improvement needs and the role it plays in the economic recovery of the Southeast — is significant," said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
Obama administration opponent Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, also noted the announcement about the Bayonne Bridge was “great news for New Jersey and great news for the region.”
“In addition to the job growth and economic activity created by this project – putting thousands of hardworking men and women of our building trades back on the job – this world-class project will secure the Port of New York and New Jersey’s role as the premier port of the East Coast and as a powerful engine of our state and regional economies. I thank the president for his leadership on this issue, as well as our partners in New York and at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” Christie added.
In February, Michael Walsh, the Army Corps of Engineers’ deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, directed “all feasibility studies will follow a 3x3x3 rule and will be completed in a target goal of 18 months but no more than three years; cost not greater than $3 million and a reasonable report size”—able to fit in a three-inch binder.
The White House said it will lead a task force of senior officials from its own offices, the Corps of Engineers, and the departments of Transportation, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury to “develop a federal strategy and coordinated decision making principles that focus on the economic return of investments into coastal ports and related infrastructure to support the movement of commerce throughout the nation.”
Kurt Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities, said his group “has long stressed the importance of expediting permitting and project delivery processes for water- and land-side access infrastructure projects at America’s seaports."
“Nationally, feasibility studies take an average of 10 years and the expedited process announced today will shave seven years off of that timeline,” the White House said.
In addition to the seven projects announced Thursday, the White House said another 36 infrastructure projects will be expedited by executive order.
“We hope that additional water- and land-side access projects at seaports will be added to the list,” Nagle said.
The projects selected for expedited treatment on Thursday included:
- Miami, where the port said it is committed to completing all federal permit reviews on plans to deepen the channel there from 42 to 50 feet by next month. Deepening is expected to be completed this year. The state of Florida, not the federal government, will supply all the funds needed to construct the project.
- Jacksonville, where the Corps of Engineers is completing a feasibility study to examine the benefits and costs of deepening the federal navigation channel from 40 feet to as much as 50 feet. The port said selection means the study will be completed by April 2013, about one year ahead of schedule. The $30 million ICTF is located at Dames Point and will be jointly developed by the Port of Jacksonville and CSX Corp. The port said the federal government has committed to completing the review process by July 2013. The U.S. Transportation Department recently awarded Jaxport a $10 million grant for the ICTF.
- Savannah, where the White House said it was committed to completing all federal reviews for harbor deepening by November. The Corps of Engineers has completed a feasibility report that examined the benefits and costs of deepening the existing channel at Savannah Harbor from its current depth of 42 feet to 47 feet. In addition to the Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior and Commerce departments must approve the final report.
- Charleston, where the administration said it's targeting completion of all federal reviews for proposal to deepen its federal navigation channel from 45 to 50 feet by September of 2015. "This priority infrastructure program is a natural extension of the Obama Administration's export initiative," said Jim Newsome, CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority. "There is clearly a recognition that in order to double the nation's exports - which are primarily sourced from the Southeast region - a port in this region must be deepened to at least 50 feet to accommodate the largest ships expected to call our coast without tidal restriction. We anticipate a favorable cost-to-benefit ratio in the Chief's Report allowing for a true post-Panamax harbor allowing for two-way vessel traffic."
- The Port of New York and New Jersey Harbor. The White House said all remaining federal reviews for the final stages of a project to deepen channels to four container terminals in the port of New York and New Jersey Harbor to 50 feet will be completed by May 2013 and that the Corps of Engineers expects to complete the project in 2014. The administration also said it was committed to completing all federal permit and review decisions for the plan to raise the roadbed of Bayonne Bridge so larger ships can pass under it by April of 2013. Port officials say they expect to have finished enough of the project that larger ships will be able to pass beneath the bridge by the fall of 2015. - Chris Dupin