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FY2015 federal budget should include funds for Virginia port's expansion project, two senators say

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are urging the Obama administration to include funds in the fiscal-year 2015 budget for the Port of Virginia's Craney Island eastward expansion project.

About 10 percent completed, the $2 billion Craney Island project will enable the Virginia Port Authority to nearly double its marine terminal capacity and meet a projected increase in international trade driven by the Panama Canal expansion, the senators wrote in a letter to the White House. The new 600-acre Craney Island marine terminal will include an intermodal container transfer facility and be built in phases.

The Norfolk facility currently is the sole eastern port authorized to dredge 55-foot channels with a 57-foot sea-lane approach, deep enough to accept post-Panamax cargo vessels that will account for 62 percent of container ship capacity by 2030, Kaine and Warner wrote.

Container movements through East Coast ports are expected to triple by 2035 and a new marine terminal on Craney Island would help transport the additional cargo by rail, such as via Norfolk Southern Railway's recently opened Heartland Corridor from Hampton Roads to the Midwest, they wrote. In addition, the project will facilitate more efficient transportation of goods and help mobilize defense assets in the event of a national emergency, the senators believe.

So far, the port has funded the majority of project costs. Federal funding was enacted in FY2010, FY2011 and FY2012, but was not included in the FY2013 or FY2014 budgets, the senators wrote.

"Some $100 million has been invested in the project so far, of which the federal government has invested $33 million," they said. "Additional years without federal funding will not only prolong completion time and raise overall project costs, but will jeopardize the current federal investment by restricting the [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] from doing bare minimum project maintenance and incurring additional risk of project setbacks."

Kaine and Warner also requested a meeting with administration staff to discuss long-term planning for the project.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/16/2013