Port of Port Arthur Plans for $20 Million Expansion in 2023-24
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Port of Port Arthur, Texas, will receive $13.6 million in a federal USDOT grant that port officials say will significantly upgrade the East Texas facility during the next year.
Along with spending an additional $7 million in local money, port leaders say they will concentrate on three projects, and some of the work will benefit the trucking industry.
“It’s a competitive grant process,” Port of Port Arthur CEO Larry Kelley said, “and, essentially we were awarded the money for three different infrastructure projects.”
The first project will repair and stabilize 25 acres of land that was formerly a railroad staging area that will be renovated to support and expand the port’s specialty cargo. That encompasses military equipment as well as renewable energy material, including wind energy towers, turbines and other items that are being imported in larger numbers.
“It was a rail yard, and when the rail was pulled up 35 years ago, we have to correct some drainage issues there and we’ll put down a hard surface area to load and unload cargo,” Kelley said. “We’ve never been a player in this wind energy market and this market continues to mature, and Texas is the largest wind energy producer in the U.S.”
The second upgrade would create a 2.2-acre truck staging and queuing area, as well as expand the port’s drop-and-hook availability and create a driver rest area.
“I have a soft space in my heart for the men and women who drive, and having run a trucking company and spent some time in the front seat, one of the things we have to have is respect for the drivers,” Kelley said. “This is a drop-and-hook location for drivers, giving them the opportunity to get back on the road.
Kelley said the port is working with TxDOT on trying to identify areas for crew rest and that it plans to enhance lighting, security, and restaurant and restroom facilities for the drivers.
The third improvement would renovate a 103-year-old building and convert it to an operations facility and administrative offices.
“We’ve acquired this old building that is quite strong, and ultimately we are going to move into this facility,” he said. “We’re going to move into this building on the second floor, and it adds resiliency for a couple of factors: We are exposed to hurricanes and there is a flood protection wall that runs through the middle of the port, and it will put a lot of our resources on the protected side of the levy. We’ll also host community meetings and our board meetings there.”
About the Port
Located on the Sabine-Neches Waterway, the Port of Port Arthur provides cargo connections to the global economy. The facility processes:
• Forest products
• Nonferrous metals
• Military equipment
• Project cargo
• Low-sulfur diesel fuel
Kelley said the port was the only facility in Texas to obtain this type of DOT grant. In previous years, as many as 1,200 municipalities and other government agencies nationwide have applied for the funding.
“We are extremely excited about this infrastructure opportunity,” Kelley said. “In many ways it accelerates our vision for local economic redevelopment and job creation in our community.”
He said that to do the three projects, Port of Port Arthur will contribute about $7 million of the estimated $20.6 million total cost.
“I certainly believe in having skin in the game; it’s a 30% local-70% federal split,” he said. “Back in 2014, the port went out and got $89.95 million in bond financing to construct two docks. One is complete and the other is under construction, and leveraging grant opportunities such as this has allowed us to use some of the bond proceeds for this project, and we’ll use some of the retained earnings from the port to fund the projects. A lot of our revenue is earned by bringing in cargo and loading out cargo, rail and trucks.”
“All three projects, Kelley said, are scheduled to be completed by mid-2024 and the federal government will reimburse the port as the projects get finished.
“We’re out of pocket — 100% of the money — and we’ll do it in phases and stages. And as it gets completed, we’ll seek reimbursement,” he said. “Our local congressman, Randy Weber [R-Texas], was very helpful. His district has more ports than any other member in Congress. Congressman Weber has walked the port, and he understands our importance to the community.”
Weber is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Kelley said the funding will transform the port by adding and improving truck capacity.
“This will be a big game changer for us,” he said, “and how we can develop future cargo at the port.”
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