CAPE CANAVERAL — Continuing his trend away from the deep spending cuts of the Tea Party activists that supported his first campaign in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott has instructed the Florida Department of Transportation to invest $24.4 million in matching funds to help support a channel widening and deepening project at Port Canaveral.
By having the state invest these matching funds, Scott noted, Port Canaveral can move quickly on a project that had been slated to begin in 2017.
“Port Canaveral is a key component to the region’s long-term vitality and a driving economic force of the Space Coast, as well as Central Florida’s hub to the world, and this port and this region cannot wait several more years for this crucial project to be complete,” Scott said. “Florida will step up to help create construction jobs in the near future and lasting permanent jobs, rather than take a chance on getting the federal government’s help.”
FDOT is now expected to begin working with the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council on this project. The funding would go through the department’s Tentative Work Program, and requires legislative approval.
Among the busiest cruise ports in the world, Canaveral had more than 2 million passengers going through it in 2010 alone. Deepening the port is expected to help it accommodate larger cargo ships, and allow them to dock and pick up or deliver cargo. Right now, Canaveral moves more than 3 million tons of bulk cargo each year.
The expansion project is expected to lead to the creation or support of 3,494 permanent jobs, as well as 3,413 new construction jobs. That includes work created from the port’s new cruise terminal and new cargo piers.
When Port Canaveral launched this expansion project in December 2010, Port Canaveral CEO Stan Payne said, “Just when the economic recovery should be moving forward at a steadier pace, we will be ready.”
Scott’s administration has they want to be sure that’s true, which is why they’re working now to accelerate this project’s timeline and get those jobs delivered faster. Florida’s unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.
By using state money rather than waiting for federal dollars, the hope is that the jobs get created a lot faster.
“Today is an exciting day for Port Canaveral,” said FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. “By widening and deepening the channel, Port Canaveral will be better suited to support cruise and cargo growth.”
As Prasad noted, rather than waiting for the lengthy federal approval and financial process, the port decided this project is vital to their continued ability to support cruise and cargo growth, so they opted to construct it on their own.
By relying on state and local dollars, the port estimates it can save $12 million on total project cost through streamlined study requirements.
In addition to enabling the port to handle larger shipments and lower transportation costs for bulk cargo, this project is expcetd to strengthen the port’s ability to compete for larger ships in the future.
FDOT released a study indicating that every dollar invested in seaports brings on average $7 to the state’s economy.
“However, given that Port Canaveral is a major cruise port with a growing cargo market, by starting and completing the project earlier than previously planned, the channel widening and deepening project is estimated to yield $11 for every dollar invested,” the governor’s office noted in a news release.
The governor’s office also noted that “Florida is uniquely positioned to lead the nation in the volume and value of trade entering our ports. In preparation of the completed expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014, Florida’s investment in expanding and modernizing its seaports has grown approximately 278 percent, up from $148.8 million in 2011, to $562.7 million in 2013 under Governor Scott’s leadership.”
This move comes just a week after Scott announced that he would lobby Congress not to make steep cuts in defense spending that could jeopardize numerous Florida projects.
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