The Latest Rumor on the Coast Goes Like This

The port expansion plan is a home run according to my very excited (and highly intoxicated) source.

Well I just checked and saw The Sun Herald picked it up today so I’ll let them tell the story.

A new expansion plan being rolled out today details a strategy to turn the Port of Gulfport into the largest container port in the United States, capable of handling more container cargo than currently runs through the Port of Los Angeles.

This plan is nothing like the previous one, reviled by casino executives and residents of Gulfport’s West Side community because it threatened to swallow the beachfront nearly to Broad Avenue.

Indeed, this plan is much, much bigger. The billion-dollar concept would put an entirely new port directly south of the present-day location.

“This would be the single largest economic-development project in the state’s history,” said Lee Youngblood, a spokesman for the Mississippi Development Authority. “It’s a statewide project with implications from the Coast going all the way up the state to the Tennessee line.”

The plan is so massive the current port property likely will become a beachside promenade with shops and restaurants. An elevated expressway will travel over the promenade, on a bridge across a new channel and south to the new Port of Gulfport.

In addition, the decade-long fight over a plan to build the Canal Road Connector, a freeway – some of it elevated – linking the port to Interstate 10, seems pointless now, because such a road won’t come close to satisfying the needs of a future Port of Gulfport, which will be built up to an elevation of 25 feet with a channel more than twice as wide as it is now.

“If you think of (the Port of Los Angeles), it has two interstates coming in and out and if we’re going to be bigger than Los Angeles, we’re going to need something more robust,” said Doug Sethness, vice president of CH2M HILL, one of the world’s largest engineering firms, which is redesigning the port.

The plan includes a new route that runs through an underground corridor linking the port to the I-10. The corridor would be wide enough to handle at least eight lanes of traffic and a rail line.

Before the plan can begin to take shape, the port knows it must win the community’s support. Without it, the plan isn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

“We need that support more than we need anything else,” Sethness said.

The old plan – the one that showed the port expanding west nearly to Broad Avenue – was despised partly because it threatened to take a large stretch of beach, but also because it was fed to the public in pieces. Residents felt shut out of the planning process, as if their voices didn’t matter.

As one of those residents I welcome the sun shine in the process that is now being promised. The plan almost sounds pie in the sky but if they go up to 25 feet at the port there are gonna be some happy dirt guys around town.

The bottom line for slab owners such as myself is will the port expansion enhance or detract from our land values and will the jobs it provides be worth the disruption to the community. We’ll all find out as the plan is rolled out.