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Port of Virginia officials last week signed a $78 million contract with Weeks Marine of New Jersey to begin the first phase of a dredging project on the port's western side of Thimble Shoal Channel.Set to begin in January 2020, the project entails dredging the shipping channels to 55 feet and widening the channel to more than 1,400 feet in specific areas. When the dredging project is completed in 2024, the commercial channels serving the Norfolk Harbor will be able to simultaneously accommodate two, ultra-large container vessels (ULCV)."The vessel sizes continue to expand, so safe, two-way ULCV traffic is important to the sustainability and efficiency of this port and to the ocean carriers using the channel," said John Reinhart, the port authority's executive director and chief executive officer, said in a press release.The project's total cost is $350 million. CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway serve the port.