The historic project to upgrade the Port of Mobile continues to move forward following official federal authorization last month.
The Alabama State Port Authority director and CEO James K. “Jimmy” Lyons and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district commander Colonel Sebastien Joly on Wednesday signed the Mobile Harbor Pre-Construction, Engineering and Design Agreement at the port authority’s downtown headquarters.
The engineering and design phase establishes the construction parameters to deepen and widen Alabama’s only deep-water seaport, which is integral to the entire state’s economy.
“This agreement is a critical step toward realizing the port’s ability to accommodate the larger ships serving the world’s major trade lanes, while improving vessel transit efficiencies and safety in our port,” stated Lyons.
Under the corps’ record of decision issued in early September, the project will deepen the existing bar, bay and river channels by 5 feet each to a project depth of 50 feet (15.24m), with additional depths for wave allowances, advanced maintenance and allowable over depth for dredging (total depths of 56, 54 and 54 feet, respectively).
The project also includes widening the bay channel by 100 feet (328.08m) for three nautical miles to accommodate two-way vessel traffic and other safety improvements.
Construction on the modifications is expected to begin in late 2020.
Overall, the harbor improvement project is keeping pace with ongoing terminal investments in the Yellowhammer State’s seaport to ensure economies of scale and competitive rates for the seaport’s shippers.
The port authority will complete its $50 million, Phase 3 container terminal expansion in early 2020 delivering another 20 acres of handling yard and extending the dock to allow simultaneous berth of two Post-Panamax sized ships. The project complements prior investments totaling $450 million in marine and rail container intermodal facilities that include two Super Post-Panamax and two Post-Panamax ship to shore gantry cranes.
“As demand dictates, we’re positioned to respond quickly to further expansion,” added Lyons.
Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) in March signed into law the Rebuild Alabama Act, a bipartisan measure overwhelmingly passed by the Alabama State Legislature that allocates a small portion of state fuel tax proceeds to support approximately $150 million in bonds to meet the federal cost-share requirements for the harbor project.
Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) legendary leadership as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee enabled this project to happen, and he has been a vocal proponent helping bring elected officials and other stakeholders in the state on board.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn