Port officials were in Washington D.C. urging to ensure federal funding to widen and deepen the ship channel is secured.
The new Harbor Bridge will be done by 2021 and allow larger vessels to enter the Port, but bigger ships also need deeper waters.
CORPUS CHRISTI -
Construction of the new Harbor Bridge is expected to wrap up in two years, but there is another major project that is going on at the same time, literally in the shadow of the bridge.
That is the project to widen and deepen the Port's ship channel.
Geography is not the only thing that connects these two projects. Work to widen and deepen the ship channel is following the same construction calendar as the Harbor Bridge project.
Just last week, Port officials were on Capitol Hill to make sure the federal funding needed for that project is secured.
Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge testified before members of Congress last week, conveying a message: in order to dig a deeper Port, the federal government needs to dig into its pockets.
"The Port has raised it's portion of the money. What we've got to do is put pressure on the federal government for them to provide their portion of the funding," Strawbridge said.
Actual dredging will be done by the Army Corps of Engineers, but the federal project will be paid for jointly by the government and the Port.
The Port has saved $100 million for the project. However, improving the ship channel was first proposed in 1990. After three decades of delays, the project cost has ballooned from $188 million to more than $327 million.
"Three decades is a long time for a project such as this to drag on. Particularly since we have yet to turn a spade of dirt," Strawbridge said.
Meanwhile, dirt is turning to make way for the Harbor Bridge. Project managers say new bridge is on track to be done in two years.
"If we can complete this project, we'll be able to reap all the benefits of those investments as well," Strawbridge said.
A higher bridge will let larger vessels pass through the Port, but bigger vessels also need deeper waters.
Strawbridge says there should be some construction in the ship channel soon. The federal government has included the project in the 2019 fiscal year budget, now putting it on track for the crucial 2021 deadline.
"We're hopeful that we will see dredgers in the water later this year," he said. "Once we get started we know that we'll keep moving forward as long as we can, as long as the funding continues to come."
By 2021, new crude oil pipelines will also connect the Permian Basin to Corpus Christi. Port officials say when all three projects come together, exports from the Coastal Bend region will double.
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