The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a plan to deepen and widen the shipping channel into the Port of Mobile.
The proposed improvement project will deepen the existing Bar, Bay and River Channels to 52 feet, 50 feet and 50, respectively. Construction could begin in late 2020, according to a press release from the Alabama State Port Authority.
The project includes widening the Bay Channel by 100 feet for three nautical miles to accommodate two-way vessel traffic.
Lawmakers this year approved a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase expected to generate about $320 million a year. About $150 million of that new revenue was pledged to port improvements.
Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) in March this year signed into law the Rebuild Alabama Act, a bipartisan measure passed by the Alabama State Legislature, that allocates a portion of state fuel tax proceeds to support approximately $150 million in bonds to meet the federal cost-share requirements for the harbor project.
A $50 million expansion project was completed in late 2017 and another $50 million project launched in 2018.
“With completion of the Phase 3 expansion, the port and its partner, APM Terminals, will have nearly $500 million in container intermodal assets to serve our customers,” said James K. Lyons, director and chief executive officer for the Port Authority. “As demand dictates, we’re positioned to respond quickly to further expansion.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby has championed the Mobile channel improvements for years, arguing the economic benefits could be “exponential” by “facilitating and expanding commerce in the state.”
On Twitter Monday, Shelby celebrated the Corps’ approval.
“This is incredible news, (and) I look forward to working with the Corps of Engineers (and) the Alabama State Port Authority to begin the next phase in the process – pre-construction, engineering and design,” he said. “We’re one step closer to transforming the entire state of Alabama.”