By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
An agreement to deepen and widen the Mobile Harbor was finalized Wednesday and work to modernize and improve Alabama’s seaport is expected to begin this fall.
“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,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said in a press release. This project has been a priority for Shelby for several years. The agreement is between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama State Port Authority.
“The completion of this historic project will transform Alabama, expanding economic opportunities throughout our state and the region,” Shelby said. “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 project will consist of deepening the Bar, Bay, and River Channels to a depth of 50 feet and 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.
The construction is anticipated to occur over six phases, with a target completion date by late 2024 or early 2025. The total estimated cost of the project is $365 million.
The project is financed by a split of 75% federal funds and 25% state-sponsored funds.
The Mobile Harbor modernization program received full federal funding in February upon passage of the Energy & Water Development and Related Agencies Act. Under the act, about $377.6 million is available to qualifying projects in Alabama and two other U.S. Gulf states.
The project also received funding support from the state when the Alabama legislature passed the Rebuild Alabama Act in 2019 which allocates a portion of state fuel tax revenue to support approximately $150 million in bonds to meet the federal cost-share requirements for the project.
“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,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a written statement. “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.”
With both federal funding and the state’s match secured, the project can now leverage ongoing terminal investments in Alabama’s only seaport to ensure economies of scale and competitive rates for the seaport’s mining, manufacturing, agribusiness and retail/distribution shippers, John Driscoll, the Alabama Port Authority director said in a press release.
“I’m deeply appreciative of the groundwork my predecessor, Jimmy Lyons, and the Authority’s team, delivered to realize this important project,” Driscoll said.
Last 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 large container ships. Prior investments totaled $450 million in marine and rail container intermodal facilities.
In 2019 the Alabama seaport terminal generated over 150,000 jobs and $25.4 billion in economic value for the state, according to the Alabama State Port Authority.