MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Work has begun on a $365 million project to improve the ship channel for Alabama’s seaport, work which officials said would keep the docks competitive in the global economy.
The two-phase project includes both deepening and widening the channel, which large ships use to enter and exit the state docks at the northern end of Mobile Bay. Work that began Friday includes dredging along a 12-mile stretch, officials said.
All the work is supposed to be completed by 2025 through contracts awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the port authority said in a news release. Executive officer John Driscoll said the project was crucial for the port.
“This project along with the collaborative support of our federal and state partners, will provide our customers and our carriers the necessary infrastructure to ensure their market competitiveness,” he said.
Mobile’s 3,700-acre port complex imports items include metals, wood products, oversized cargo, consumer goods and chemicals, while its prime exports include those plus coal, frozen poultry and grain.
The program received full federal funding in 2020 after the state agreed to use state fuel tax revenues to support about $150 million in bonds for the work, the state said.
Last year, Alabama Daily News reported that the Corps had allocated $274 million toward the channel dredging, a project long sought by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who is serving his final term in the Senate.
“Over the last decade, I have been advocating for the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile. The completion of this transformative project is expected to stem immeasurable economic growth and will position Alabama and the Gulf Coast region for success for generations to come,” Shelby said then.