Vice President Joe Biden led a group of federal legislators on a tour of a barge at Penn’s Landing Thursday to assess the progress of a $300 million dredging project along the Delaware River.
They liked what they saw, and they liked what the project portends for the future.
The barge is one of the vessels that will be used to continue the project, which covers the 102-mile stretch from Philadelphia to the ocean. Authorized by Congress in 2012, the project has faced a series of legal challenges by New Jersey and environmental groups including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The ecological concerns about the dredging project were dismissed by a federal court, and now more than half of the project has been completed.
Joining Biden Thursday were U.S. Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. Biden and Casey commended the work of the Army Corps of Engineers, and emphasized the economic importance of the project for Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“This is about the future,” said Casey. “And there are a lot of people in Washington who don’t think we have to invest in ports, who don’t think we have to invest in infrastructure, who don’t believe — I guess — that the middle class, and strengthening the middle class, is all that important”.
Thirty percent of all the cargo ships in the world require a draft of more than 40 feet. By deepening the channel from 40 feet to 45 feet, officials say, the Delaware River can remain a competitive business artery for manufacturing and commerce.
“We can’t afford to be left out of this,” said Biden.
Not only will the project sustain the 135,000 jobs that support Philadelphia’s port, it will also create thousands of new middle-class jobs in manufacturing and construction, Biden said.
“I was so sick and tired of hearing, during the ’80s and ’90s and into the 2000s, that we had to focus on a service economy,” he said. “Manufacturing is coming home to the United States, you’re not hearing the word ‘outsourcing’ now. You are hearing the word ‘insourcing.'”
Addressing a crowd of labor and business leaders, Biden ended his speech by reiterating his commitment to preserving the middle class and producing more “good-paying jobs”.