U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby on Wednesday praised the announcement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, and the Alabama State Port Authority have officially entered into a Project Partnership Agreement to deepen and widen the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel by late 2024 or early 2025.
The agreement was signed today by Colonel Sebastien P. Joly, Commander of the Mobile District, and John C. Driscoll, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Alabama State Port Authority.
“Today’s signing of the Mobile Harbor Project agreement is yet another milestone in the process of the deepening and widening the Port of Mobile,” said Senator Shelby. “The completion of this historic project will transform Alabama, expanding economic opportunities throughout our state and the region. Further, the modernization of Alabama’s primary port will increase the United States’ competitiveness in the global market. I am extremely grateful for the support of the Army Corps of Engineers and the work of the Alabama State Port Authority to ensure that this project, which I have spent years championing, crosses the finish line with ease.”
The Mobile District of the Corps anticipates the initial construction phase of the Mobile Harbor project will be awarded in the fall of 2020. The completed project will include deepening the existing Bar, Bay, and River Channels to a depth of 50 feet, incorporating minor bend easing at the double bends in the Bar Channel, widening the Bay Channel from 400 feet to 500 feet from the mouth of Mobile Bay northward for three nautical miles to provide a two-way traffic area for passing, and expanding the Choctaw Pass Turning Basin by 250 feet to the south at a depth of 50 feet. The widening and deepening of the channel will allow the Port of Mobile to accommodate the new larger container ships that are being built following the widening and deepening of the Panama Canal.
The Mobile Harbor project is expected to be done in six construction phases, with a targeted project completion by late 2024 or early 2025, and a total estimated cost of $365 million.
The Mobile Harbor Modernization project also received the State of Alabama’s funding commitment in March 2019 when Alabama Legislature passed and Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the Rebuild Alabama Act that allocated fuel tax dollars to support approximately $150 million in bonds to pay the state’s portion of the project. Motorists will see the price they pay for fuel increase by ten cents. The first phase increase went into effect last October, with the remainder in the next two years.
“Beyond the impact on the local and state levels, the Port of Mobile serves as a catalyst to our nation’s competitive position in the global economy. I have been proud to support The Mobile Harbor Modernization project, and I look forward to watching the growing benefits our Port will have in the years to come,” Gov. Ivey said. “The Port of Mobile is now poised to become a major hub for export activity, and this is yet another giant step forward in supporting our industries in the Americas and beyond. Alabama can be proud of the powerful economic tool that is our own Port of Mobile.”
The Mobile Harbor deepening and widening project received its Record of Decision in September 2019, following an extensive four-year, environmental impact and economic feasibility study.
Just this past year, the Port Authority completed its $50 million, Phase 3 expansion that added 20 acres of container handling yard and extended 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.
“The Mobile Harbor project leverages shore-side port investments that provide shippers cost competitive transportation solutions in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive global economy,” said John Driscoll. “I’m deeply appreciative of the groundwork my predecessor, Jimmy Lyons, and the Authority’s team, delivered to realize this important project.”
In February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated $274,300,000 for the Port of Mobile in its Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan.
The Port of Mobile is one of the nation’s fastest growing container seaports and has an economic impact of $25.4 billion. Supporters claim that the harbor channel construction project will allow for more goods to be shipped and sold through the Port of Mobile.
75 percent of the project will be paid for with federal funds and 25 percent from state-sponsored funds. Through federal legislation, Senator Shelby increased the federal government’s share of funding for deep draft ports from 50 percent to 75 percent.