$1bn Houston Ship Channel development scheme expected to start this year

The Port of Houston, America’s busiest port, is expected to begin tendering work packages for its estimated $1bn project to widen and deepen the 58-mile Houston Ship Channel after the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) gave it a "new start" designation and $19.5m in federal funds to get going.

Called "Project 11" because it’s the 11th major capital works scheme since it opened to sea-going vessels in 1914, the project will see 41 miles of its length improved, including widening the channel by 170 feet along its Galveston Bay reach, from 530 feet to 700 feet, and deepening upstream parts to 45 feet. 

After seven years campaigning for the project, the port hopes to start work this year. It says the project will make the channel safer and more efficient for the eight public terminals and approximately 200 private terminals the channel serves along its length.

The port has become the number one in the US in terms of total waterborne tonnage, foreign waterborne tonnage and number of vessel transits. Nearly 285 million tons of cargo moved through the Port of Houston overall in 2019.

Project 11 was authorised in the Water Resources and Development Act of 2020, and passed by Congress in December 2020. The USACE designation was announced on 19 January.

"To go from Congressional authorisation to securing a pathway for construction in less than a month is phenomenal news," Port Houston Chairman Ric Campo said.

"Project 11 will provide the greater Houston metropolitan area continued job growth and economic development opportunities, while improving air quality by reducing traffic congestion on the channel."

Port Houston executive director Roger Guenther called the USACE designation a momentous occasion.

"We’re grateful for our bipartisan Congressional delegation and the many channel stakeholders who aggressively advocated to get this project authorised and funded," Guenther said. "Without their continued support, we wouldn’t be in this position today."

Image: The Port of Houston has become the number one port in the US in terms of total waterborne tonnage (US Coast Guard photograph by PA2 James Dillard/Public domain)

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