TRUCKS AND TRACKS. New York (above) and Tacoma are improving connections to and through ports. (Photo top courtesy of New york Container Terminal; below courtesy of the Port of Tacoma)

...of the 4,300 ft of berth. Michael Crist, project engineer for VPA consultant Moffatt & Nichol, says the reconstruction of pavement will allow it to accept high-capacity straddle carriers.

VPA’s channels have depths of more than 50 ft, making it one of only several U.S. ports to currently handle 800,000-TEU ships, and so far the only U.S. east coast port. But the Port of New York & New Jersey is speeding construction to change that fact. A record $1-billion five-year capital budget includes $850 million to dredge channels to 50 ft. The sooner that happens, the sooner New York can attract the super-sized ships.

A joint venture of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., and Bean Stuyvesant LLC, New Orleans, just began a $57-million deepening contract for two channels. This will require dredging of 286,000 cu yd of rock.

The Port of Oakland plans to dredge channels to 50 ft by 2006 in a $319-million program, though $112 million in federal funding is still needed, says Harry Stewart, chief operating officer of Dutra Group, San Rafael, Calif., the main contractor. Some 7 million cu yd of sediments from dredging will create 185 acres of new wetlands. Manson is driving 140-ft piles for a $22-million 1,000-ft wharf to handle big cranes.

Corpus Christi also wants to join the 50-ft-deep club with a $200-million project, now awaiting federal approval. The project would widen the channel from 400 ft to 530 ft, deepen it from 45 ft to 52 ft and add 200-ft-wide barge shelves along both sides. Approval is expected within 18 months, with construction to finish within 8 to 10 years.

But dredging isn’t enough. "There needs to be more investment in intermodal yards" that link terminals with road and rail, says Crannell. But he says "there are difficulties in finding sites and cooperation" from often cash-strapped railroads.

While "ports are ready to embrace intermodalism," they must deal with the disruptions and costs that come with the projects, notes Bill Mitchell, principal port planner for Halcrow. Twenty percent of the NY/NJ port authority’s $1-billion budget goes to expanding intermodal rail facilities.

In New Orleans, port expansion plans include bridges. American Bridge Co., Downers Grove, Ill., has a $43.9-million job to build a new lift- span bridge, to finish next month. A $78-million second project is awaiting $45 million in funds. That project includes two vertical lift spans–a four-lane roadway and a freight and passenger train railway.

In Corpus Christi, the $50-million Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor project is under way, with an 11.5-mile, 2-lane road and a 7-mile rail line. Local firm Haas-Anderson Construction Ltd. won the job in June, says port engineering director Frank Brogan. The corridor, slated to finish in 2008, will improve access to 2,000 acres of land and enable 1,000 acres of development. The road travels through soft areas that require extensive dewatering and stabilization with imported materials.

Nearby, the Port of Houston is moving on its $1.2-billion Bayport Container Terminal project after delays from lawsuits. The port’s environmental mitigation efforts have been massive. "No public agency can build a massive public works project without coalition building," says port Chairman Jim Edmonds. Dredging the channel to 45 ft includes a commitment "that virtually all the material out of Galveston Bay will be used to create marsh," says Laura Fiffick, the port’s environmental manager. A 228-acre demonstration marsh made of dredge material is quelling doubts, she says. "Over the next 50 years we’ll create 4,000 acres of marsh," plus 800 acres for a bird habitat.

Bayport construction will include a four-part stormwater discharge system. A holding pond will capture the first inch of rainfall. A retention basin will capture and slowly release stormwater when more than 1 in. falls and a newly designed wetland will further filter water before discharge. Maintenance and parking areas will have isolated drainage basins.

Reducing emissions and other impacts is a goal for all U.S. ports, said Tom Chase, environmental affairs director for the American Association of Port Authorities. "We’re hoping the Port of Houston can become a model" for other ports to follow, he adds.


Nine ports, the U.S. Maritime Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a two-year program to improve environmental management systems and possibly implement new standards for "green" ports. Houston participated in a similar program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2000, for which it received ISO 14001 certification. The Massachusetts Port Authority also has been certified for its cargo terminal. Future work there will require contractors to run equipment with clean fuel and use recycled pavement, notes Catherine Wetherell, port environmental manager.

Los Angeles’ port is testing cold ironing, where ships shut down diesel engines and run on landside electric power while in port. Used by the Navy, cold ironing can require millions of dollars to build substations, plugs and sockets and new cable routes to the dock, notes Halcrow’s Mitchell. "Inevitably, cold ironing will be required, based on cost-effectiveness."

Costs, always a concern, are compounded by growing security requirements and funding shortages (ENR 9/23/02 p. 26). "Ports are struggling with how to put in access controls and detection equipment without ongoing operating costs going through the roof," says Sewell.

Despite all the challenges, "it’s a good time to be in ports, and will continue to be," Mitchell says, noting the growing U.S. market. Globally, "there’s more than enough work for all the maritime consultants in the world," adds Crannell.