After decades of study and legal wrangling, Pennsylvania officials say work will begin within 30 days to deepen the Delaware River between the Walt Whitman Bridge and just south of Philadelphia International Airport.
A large cargo vessel at a Philadelphia shipyard served as the backdrop for the announcement by Gov. Tom Corbett Tuesday that a contract has been finalized to dredge the 9-mile section of the Delaware.
“This continuation will allow the port of Philadelphia to compete with the deep-water ports up and down the East Coast,” Corbett said.
Corbett said deepening the river from 40 to 45 feet will allow larger ships to come in to port and will create 8,000 to 12,000 jobs.
The federal government is funding the lion’s share of this $14 million portion of the project.
On stage, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and other members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation congratulated each other on successfully lobbying for those federal dollars.
“There are plenty of instances where we have not been able to find common ground across party lines,” Toomey said. “Here’s an example where we’ve been able to do just that.”
The dredging had been under a cloud until opponents, including the state of New Jersey and environmental groups in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, lost an appeal in federal court last month.
New Jersey officials claim the dumping of sediment in Gloucester and Salem counties would hurt ecologically sensitive areas.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said it is reviewing the latest appeals court decision and considering its options. The state has until the beginning of October to request the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Once this phase is complete, about 55 more miles will have to be dredged before the whole project is done and larger tankers can come to Philadelphia.