The Birmingham–Jefferson County Port Authority, along with port operations firm Watco, have launched plans to turn the inland Port Birmingham into a global import–export hub, according to AL.com.
The 182-acre facility, located 22 miles west of downtown Birmingham, AL, connects to the Gulf of Mexico and the Port of Mobile via the Black Warrior River. The port processed 12 million to 14 million tons of goods annually in its heyday in the 1990s. Today, it's running at 5% capacity despite having easy access to three railroads and key highways.
Local officials recently approved $675,000 for the Port Authority to begin redevelopment efforts, and officials are applying for federal grants to upgrade the facilities and to build warehouses and container storage.
Port Birmingham officials are not the only ones trying to boost port business through facility upgrades.
Much of the rush to expand capabilities and capacity is because of the emergence of the larger, post-Panamax ships that went into use after completion of a new lane of the Panama Canal.
One such project nearing completion is the $1.6 billion Bayonne Bridge renovation. Skanska was tasked with raising the bridges' clearance from 151 feet to 215 feet so the new ships can fit underneath. The bridge was originally scheduled to be finished in 2016 but should be fully complete sometime in 2019; however, it will be able to accomodate larger ships beginning this summer, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Broward County Board of County Commissioners recently approved a $437 million renovation and expansion of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They, too, are trying to accommodate the post-Panamax ships. The project, called the Southport Turning Notch Expansion, will see the construction of bigger cargo-ship berths, the installation of rails capable of handling larger cranes and a near-tripling in the amount of deepwater turnaround space. A joint venture between Moss & Associates and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., the project will also expand the area for mangroves and wetlands.