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Accelerating the Future: Infrastructure Construction: Smart Decisions Up Front Pay Off Long Term

Large scale port infrastructure projects are time-consuming and expensive, but taking the right steps up front can reduce costs, shorten timetables and increase stakeholders’ satisfaction.

By Mary Lou Jay

Large scale port infrastructure projects are time-consuming and expensive, but taking the right steps up front can reduce costs, shorten timetables and increase stakeholders’ satisfaction.

Define the Business Case

“Any organization undertaking a capital project needs to have a strong business case that includes a rigorous mapping of all the needs, objectives and anticipated outcomes related to the implementation of such capital project,” said Sophie Roux, vice president, public affairs for the Montréal Port Authority. The organization needs to clearly define why the project is needed and what it will accomplish once it is implemented.

Roux said that the Montréal Port Authority’s two-year modernization of its century-old Alexandra Pier cruise terminal will enable the port to offer services better suited to client needs, improve operational capacity and provide a new marine signature for Montréal.

One problem is that the ROI on infrastructure investments can extend out for 50 years. “In a world that expects immediate payback that’s a tough discussion,” said Vanta Coda, executive director, Duluth Seaway Port Authority. Ports need to persuade stakeholders early on to focus on long-term benefits.

Explore Financing Options

Persistence can pay off when financing infrastructure projects. The Port of Duluth-Superior applied five times before the U.S. Department of Transportation finally approved its request for a $10 million Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant. The funding helped pay for the $17.7 million rebuild and expansion of Docks C & D, which enhanced the port’s intermodal capabilities, expanded its capacity to handle more heavy-lift and project cargo and increased freight capacity.

“Ports need to pay more attention to looking at innovative ways to finance these projects,” said David Anderton, assistant director of Port Everglades, strategic planning and development. Port Everglades is working with the Federal Department of Transportation to secure a TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act) loan for its Southport Turning Notch Extension (STNE). The $437.5 million project will lengthen the existing deepwater turnaround area for cargo ships to create more berth space and add new rail structure to support super Post-Panamax gantry cranes and extend the range for its current cranes.

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