It’s anticipated that 12 construction contracts will be awarded for the widening of the Houston Ship Channel. Federal funding has recently been secured to set the project cruising forward.
Navigating The Country’s Busiest Waterway
The 52 mile Houston Ship Channel has become the busiest U.S. port, based on total waterborne tonnage. The main channel, along with a 6 mile smaller channel, has eight public terminals—and over 200 private terminals, collectively know as the Port of Houston. The flow of imports and exports is strong—necessitating expansion. As the American Society of Civil Engineers reports:
“As this port grows, the channel must expand too,” says Rich Byrnes, the chief port infrastructure officer for Port Houston. “Despite COVID-related downturns, Houston’s imports and exports have been resilient.”
The Houston Ship Channel Expansion is also known as Project 11 because it will be the 11th major expansion of the channel. The project involves widening significant portions of the channel to facilitate safer, more efficient navigation.
Dredging will be conducted by means of a “combination of mechanical and cutterhead dredges, with the dredge type being at the discretion of the contractor performing the work,” says Harmon Brown, Ph.D., the project manager for the Houston Ship Channel….More than 60 percent of the dredged material will be reused beneficially, either in the creation of marsh cells, bird islands, or oyster beds….
Funding, Partnerships, and Contract Plans
Years of collaborative plan and design work between the Army Corps of Engineers and Port Houston are paying off. In December, the federal government passed the Water Resources Development Act, which authorized Project 11. In January, a “new start” award of $19.5 million in federal funding was awarded. This will enable the Army Corps of Engineers and Port Houston to develop a partnership agreement and move into construction.
Ultimately, Project 11 is estimated at $877 million, with $463 million from the Army Corps and Port Houston contributing $414 million. The partnership is anticipated to dramatically accelerate the work—with completion targeted for 2026. As reported by he American Society of Civil Engineers:
Ultimately, as many as 12 construction contracts will be awarded for the expansion project….In addition to handling the oyster mitigation work, the Corps will award construction contracts for most of the improvements to the bayou section of the ship channel. Meanwhile, Port Houston will award contracts for the dredging of the bay sections of the channel and one segment of the bayou section.
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