Norfolk – The Virginia Port Authority today announced that it will begin the first phase of real construction on the eastward expansion of Craney Island in December, signaling the start of a project that has been discussed in the Hampton Roads port community since the 1970s.
On Dec. 1, work crews will begin construction of the foundations for a network of dikes that eventually will support a 600-acre marine terminal. The foundation work will be done in phases as finances permit.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the VPA have been working on this for more than 13 years; getting all the necessary approvals, permits, environmental impact statements, public input and so forth," said Jerry A. Bridges, the VPA's executive director. "Now, the real work starts. The benefits of this project, both short- and long-term, are going to be significant."
For the last three-and-a-half years the VPA has been working on its preliminary engineering plan for the project. Some of the next phases include moving a fuel line that crosses the property and continued work on the foundations.
The marine terminal will sit on a 600-acre site that will be built on the east side of the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area. Once the dikes have been raised to final elevation the cells will be filled with dredged material from the Hampton Roads Harbor and nearby rivers and then prepped to the point where the entire site will be stable enough to support the planned marine terminal.
The emphasis, Bridges said, is on building "the dirt."
"This is in preparation for the demand that is going to be placed on our facilities in 15 or so years," Bridges said. "Building the land, so to speak, is the most demanding part of this project. But we have to get the site ready so when the demand hits, we can begin ordering cranes and pouring concrete for the terminal, which comparatively, are the easy parts".
In September the VPA awarded two contracts worth a combined $30.9 million for this phase of work. The total cost to complete the 600-acre site is $700 million and that will be done through a 50-50 cost-share agreement with the federal government. The projected cost for completion of multi-phase terminal project is $2.2 billion.
Virginia's congressional delegation, led by US Sens. Mark R. Warner and Jim Webb, has been supportive of Craney Island because of its significant positive economic impact on both the Commonwealth and the Mid-Atlantic. The delegation was able to get a $100,000 appropriation for the project in last year's federal budget.
"Last year's appropriation was a beginning and it was significant because the project made the budget, so the flow of federal money has started," Warner said. "This is a project of vital economic significance on multiple levels: job creation, increased revenues, increased competitiveness in the global marketplace and billions in national economic development benefits. It is for those reasons that I'm going to continue to push for federal support."
Projected benefits of the Craney Island Eastward Expansion project:
The construction phase will generate 1,176 jobs and $37 million in wages.
When it is complete, the cargo moving over Craney Island will generate 54,000 jobs, $1.7 billion in wages, and $155 million in state and local tax revenue.
Its cumulative economic impact on the Commonwealth will be $5 billion annually.
It will generate $6 billion in National Economic Development benefits -- money that will not have to be invested by the federal government in large transportation infrastructure projects needed to move goods to consumers.