Port upgrades to drive Western Tidewater development

Published 10:20 am Saturday, June 30, 2012


WINDSOR—Economic development officials in Western Tidewater are predicting a tide of new business activity and jobs as they move to capitalize on major upgrades to Hampton Roads port facilities.

The flurry of excitement is rooted in the installation of new locks in the Panama Canal, which will increase traffic and accommodate East Coast-bound container ships carrying well in excess of double the cargo volume of previous vessels.

To reap the benefits, scheduled for completion in 2014, the Port of Virginia is planning a $250 million upgrade of Portsmouth’s APM Terminals Virginia and a new port facility at Craney Island.

East Coast retailers and other businesses will be able to import more goods from Asia for less money, and in turn are planning new distribution facilities.

Addressing a public forum at Windsor High School on Wednesday hosted by state Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, Virginia Port Authority Economic Development Manager Stephanie Allman spoke of major port-associated opportunities for Hampton Roads.

“We consider the port will be an economic driver all across the state, and especially in Hampton Roads,” Allman said.

The APM Terminals Virginia would be developed over 291 acres when the extra capacity is required. Plans include a 4,000-foot pier and 12 cranes.

Scheduled for 2025, the $1.2 billion first phase of Craney Island Marine Terminal would cover 220 acres, with a 3,000-foot pier, six cranes and a depth of 52 feet.

Improving road, rail and warehousing infrastructure is crucial to fulfilling the potential of increased port capacity.

Norfolk Southern and CSX have been upgrading rail, and the state plans to build a new Route 460 toll road from Suffolk to Petersburg in part to handle heavy vehicles more safely, creating new opportunities for localities including Suffolk, Smithfield, Windsor, and Isle of Wight, Southampton and Sussex counties.

Southampton County Board of Supervisors member Ronnie West questioned Virginia Department of Transportation officials over local roads set to be cut off by the new 460, an example of how not everyone is entirely comfortable with the port-fuelled development wave looming.