March 7, 2016 10:00 AM, EST
Port of Corpus Christi to Get $3.3 Million to Upgrade Roads
Port Corpus Christi

The Port of Corpus Christi will receive a share of $20 million from the Texas Transportation Commission for road improvements along the Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor.

Corpus Christi's port was one of nine Texas ports the commission funded this year. It will get $3.3 million.

The award is timely for the nation's fifth-largest port based on tonnage: It's on the cusp of a major uptick in road traffic.

Italian firm M&G Resins USA is just months from opening a 412-acre, $1 billion polyethylene terephthalate resin-processing plant on the Nueces Bay shoreline. The port plans to widen a portion of the corridor where it connects with Mike Carrell Road, and add turn lanes.

Doing so is a step toward making it safer to drive and improving access to the facility, said John LaRue, executive director for Corpus Christi's port.

"These are significant safety projects that we have to undertake," said LaRue, who also is chairman of  the state Port Authority Advisory Committee.

The transportation commission announced the funding March 2.

Road improvement is just the latest in a series of recent projects that either are planned or have been carried out along the port's Inner Harbor in anticipation of M&G's arrival:

The port is in the second and final phase of an expansion of its Nueces River Rail Yard. The plan involves creating eight unit train sidings and providing rail storage for up to 1,247 railcars. The price tag for the second phase was about $28 million, $22 million of which was paid with a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation's Mobility Fund. The rest was covered by port authority reserves.

The first phase cost $18 million and called for nearly 2 miles of rail, four parallel tracks, an additional track for parking locomotives and about 14,000 track feet, enough storage for 200 railcars. It wrapped up last year.

The port authority last month signed an agreement granting M&G railcar storage space close to its plant.

In June, Houston-based Gravity Midstream Corpus Christi purchased for $100 million a 44-acre crude oil logistics terminal in the Tule Lake Turning Basin that once belonged to Trigeant. A fuel and asphalt refiner, Trigeant, for filed bankruptcy in December 2013.

The terminal is located across the turning basin from M&G.

Gravity is converting Trigeant's crude processing unit into a condensate stabilizer or condensate splitter, where it hopes to process up to 100,000 barrels of product daily. That project is on pace to be completed by the end of the year.

When completed, M&G's plant will be the world's largest single-line producer of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, and purified terephthalic acid, or PTA.

Both materials are used to make plastics.