By mid 2015, the massive construction effort to widen/deepen the Panama Canal’s channels and lock system will be complete. The result will be a doubling of service capacity and first-time-ever clearance for oil supertankers and the largest container ships from Asia, Africa and Europe.

The increase in cargo/freight traffic to Florida and U.S. southeast ports is expected to be unprecedented, which translates to real opportunity for transportation and transit professionals who are able to seize supporting infrastructure opportunities. The Florida governor, legislature and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are currently undertaking a comprehensive strategic effort to prepare for and attract a sizable share of the expected increase in the international cargo traffic utilizing the improved Panama Canal.

Encouraged by the U.S. Government’s Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) freight plan funding initiative, FDOT created a parallel Florida Freight Mobility and Trade Plan, shifting the primary focus to improving freight-handling infrastructure. Specifically, plans are underway to expedite dredging of deeper harbors, expansion and upgrading of ports, container receiving and transport facilities, surface transit intermodal hubs, warehouse complexes, weigh station facilities and linking interstate and state roadways.

Of the recent projects, the most notable are the $1B Port of Miami tunnel project, Winter Haven CSX Integrated Logistics Center and Intermodal Facility, Port Everglades Intermodal Container Transfer Facility and the LNG Production Plant in Jacksonville. More projects are destined to follow with a full State of Florida investment plan to be finalized by August 2014.

What this all signals is a paradigm shift in transit opportunity volume and type in Florida with a vast majority of work over the next decade in intermodal (movement of containers, goods and services) complexes and facilities in lieu of multi-modal (movement of people). Pond & Company, with excellent transportation, municipal facility design and fueling expertise is positioned well to serve the State of Florida for this upcoming surge in shipping.

Written by: Gary Wingo, AIA Transit Architecture – Pond & Company / Jacksonville

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