Florida Will Not Wait on Federal Government to Fund, Investment to Support Creation of 3,500 Jobs
Governor Rick Scott today announced a commitment of $38 million in state and local funding to complete Phase II of the TraPac Container Terminal project at JAXPORT. The investment enables JAXPORT to jump-start the final phase of fixing the navigational problems in the St. Johns River at Mile Point from its previously uncertain start date which was contingent on federal funding.
Governor Scott said, “My top priority as Governor is job creation. Florida’s ports are critical to providing jobs for Florida families – and we can no longer wait on the federal government to fund such an important project. We need the jobs now. That’s why I am proud to announce that we are keeping our promise to the Jacksonville community by committing $36 million in state funding for the Phase II project to create more navigable, efficient and safe routes for major container ships at JAXPORT. Once constructed, the project will support the increase in cargo volumes and create an additional 3,500 port-related jobs. That’s a great victory for Florida families.”
Rather than waiting for Congress to fund the project, Governor Scott is committing $36 million with a $2 million match from JAXPORT and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to engineer, construct and complete the Phase II project. JAXPORT and state officials have been engaging the federal government to address Mile Point concerns since 2006. JAXPORT calculates 3,500 jobs are supported by the port through this project and the associated TraPac terminal. Today’s announcement also follows a 2011 commitment of $77 million in state funding for the deepening of PortMiami – another project the federal government has been unable to fund.
As ships and loads become larger, so do the demands on Florida ports. Today, ships face challenges of the strong currents when they try to enter JAXPORT. As the Intracoastal Waterway and St. Johns River converge at Mile Point, the strong currents threaten large container ships whose heavy cargo makes them less navigable, creating a potential safety hazard as well as significant delays where ships are forced to wait for high tides to subside.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad said, “Today is an exciting day for JAXPORT. I thank Governor Scott for his continued investment in Florida’s seaports. By finishing this important project and removing the existing navigational concerns, JAXPORT will be better suited to compete for and support continued cargo growth within the region and in the Southeast.”
“The Mile Point project promotes job growth and increases Jacksonville’s strength in the global supply chain. It’s an opportunity to welcome more ships while increasing our capacity to export domestic goods,” said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, who serves as chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Metro Exports and Ports task force. “We are thankful for the governor’s investment and for this vote of confidence in our ability to continue opening doors into the world economy.”
Senator Aaron Bean said, “Today is a great day for our community. By committing $36 million in state dollars to Mile Point, the Governor has made it clear job creation is a priority. The more we support JAXPORT, the more Jacksonville will grow and support job growth.”
Rep. Lake Ray said, “I applaud Governor Scott for his support of JAXPORT. If we waited on the federal government to fund the Mile Point project, we would have no idea how long it would take for our port to meet its full potential. I look forward to working with the Legislature and FDOT to ensure we fund the Mile Point Project.”
JAXPORT Interim CEO Roy Schleicher said, “This is a red letter day for all of us who care about the economic vitality and quality of life in this region and throughout the state. The benefits of this investment will continue to create opportunity for the port, our business partners and our citizens for decades to come by allowing this project to take a major leap forward toward completion.”
The project is critical for handling the port’s current cargo ships as well as strengthens the port’s ability to successfully compete for more post-Panamax ships in the future. Removing the existing navigational restrictions on the St. Johns River will allow large cargo ships to access their terminals without waiting for high tide, saving shippers and businesses time and money in loading and unloading cargo.
The new TraPac terminal is built to handle post-Panamax ships. Fixing Mile Point will allow greater utilization of this terminal and increased capacity for goods headed to Northeast Florida and Southeastern US markets.
Doug Wheeler, president of the Florida Ports Council said, “With JAXPORT being a vital economic engine for Florida, addressing any navigational issues and thereby increasing the port’s competitiveness is critical. We are thankful that the state is recognizing the importance of JAXPORT’s Mile Point project and its economic benefits from increased shipping and freight movement.”
According to a study commissioned by FDOT, every dollar invested in the seaports yields on average, approximately $7 to the state’s economy. However, given that JAXPORT is a major port with a growing cargo market, by completing this project and allowing the cargo terminals to be utilized more efficiently and fully, this project is estimated to yield more than $8 for every dollar invested.
FDOT will work with the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) Council on a plan to include the funding in the department’s Tentative Work Program, once the review process outlined in the Strategic Port Investment Initiative is complete. The Department will seek the approval of the Florida Legislature this spring.