Virginia Senators push for more Craney Island funding

As the 2015 Federal budget season approaches, both Virginia US Senators have penned a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Department of the Army asking for additional funding to be included in the FY2015 President’s Budget for the Craney Island Eastward Expansion project.

The Craney Isnland project will create about 600 acres of new land that the Port of Virginia will use for a new marine container terminal.  Funding for the early stages of the project was structured to be a 50/50 split between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Government.  While Virginia has continued funding the ongoing work, Congress has not help up their end of the arrangement.

“From 2007 through the end of fiscal year 2012, the state has contributed $73.9 million to the Craney land expansion, while the federal government has contributed $31 million, said Doug Martin, chief of civil works projects for the [Army] Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District.”

This letter comes at an opportune time as Vice President Joe Biden was at the Port of Baltimore today to celebrate a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.  At that event, Vice President Biden was lauding the benefits of infrastructure investment and its impact on America’s competitiveness.  It would be tough to find a current or proposed project in the US that would have as great of an impact on American logistics as the Craney Island project.  Let’s hope that enthusiasm carries on through the budget season!

“Modernizing infrastructure — our ports, our canals, our rails, our roads — does nothing but encourage manufacturers to come back to the United States because it enables them … to efficiently compete with everyone around the world,” – Joe Biden @ Port of Baltimore 9/10/13

Text of the letter from Senators Warner and Kaine is as follows:

September 9, 2013

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Director Assistant Secretary for Civil Works
The Office of Management and Budget Department of the Army
725 17th Street, NW 108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20503 Washington, DC 20310-0108

Dear Director Burwell and Secretary Darcy:

As you prepare the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 federal budget, we write to urge you to include construction funds for the Craney Island Eastward Expansion project in Portsmouth, Virginia. We also request a meeting with staff from your offices to discuss long-term planning for this project.

This is a project of national significance that updates critical infrastructure, drives economic development, and creates jobs. We understand the enormous fiscal pressures you have faced in recent years, but it is critical that we determine a path forward. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has expressed capability to execute $50 million in project activities in FY15.

As you know, the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 authorized this project with a 50% federal cost-share, with the Virginia Port Authority matching the federal contribution. To date, the Port has funded the vast majority of project activities. Federal funding was enacted in FY10, FY11, and FY12, but was not included in the President’s budget for FY13 or FY14.

Some $100 million has been invested in the project so far, of which the federal government has invested $33 million. Construction is underway, and the overall project is around 10% complete. Additional years without federal funding will not only prolong completion time and raise overall project costs, but will also jeopardize the current federal investment by restricting the Corps from doing bare minimum project maintenance and incurring additional risk of project setbacks (such as a Hurricane Sandy-type event).

The Port of Virginia is a gateway for international commerce and is one of thirteen U.S. strategic ports that support the mobilization and readiness of our national defense. More than 14,000 businesses from all contiguous 48 states move cargo through Virginia.

The construction of the Craney Island Eastward Expansion will allow the Virginia Port Authority to nearly double its marine terminal capacity and to meet the projected increase in international trade from the Panama Canal expansion. Virginia is currently the sole port on the eastern seaboard authorized to dredge 55-foot channels with 57-foot sea lane approach, deep enough to accept post-Panamax cargo vessels, which will account for 62% of container ship capacity by 2030. Furthermore, TEU movement through East Coast ports is expected to triple by 2035. The new marine terminal on Craney Island will help move this additional cargo to our nation’s rail network via the recently opened Heartland Rail Corridor from Hampton Roads to the Midwest.

This project is estimated to stimulate $16 billion in National Economic Development benefits with a Benefit-to-Cost Ratio (BCR) of 3.1 to 1 and a Remaining Benefits-to-Cost Ratio (RBCR) of 5.5 to 1, while generating some 1,100 jobs immediately and 54,000 sustainable jobs after construction. The project fits the administration’s drive for smart economic and infrastructure growth.

We believe that the completion of the Craney Island Eastward Expansion has clear benefits to the nation, facilitating more efficient transport of goods and assisting in the mobilization of defense assets should a national emergency arise. It is critical that this project remain on schedule.

We appreciate your attention to this important initiative and look forward to working closely with you on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Mark Warner Tim Kaine