Three-hundred million-dollar port improvement program also announced in joint news conference by governor of Pennsylvania and PRPA.

Amid much fanfare, a day sought after by the Philadelphia regional maritime industry for more than two decades finally arrived when Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell announced that conflicts with New Jersey related to the Delaware River Channel Deepening Project have been resolved and that the plan to deepen the river’s channel from 40 to 45 feet will now move forward, with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) now being the project’s local sponsor.

Governor Rendell made his announcement during a news conference at the New Jersey headquarters of the Delaware River Port Authority, the project’s previous local sponsor, then crossed the Delaware River to make the same announcement in front of the headquarters of PRPA. At that second news conference, Governor Rendell not only announced that the channel-deepening project was now moving forward, but also his endorsement of a comprehensive and aggressive $300 million capital improvement program that will modernize and expand the Port of Philadelphia’s facilities and infrastructure.

Speaking of both the channel-deepening project and the state’s capital investment program, Governor Rendell said, ‘With our agreement to move forward with dredging, Pennsylvania- through the PRPA- is now prepared to begin an aggressive program of investment in the Port of Philadelphia. We will partner with PRPA and its terminal operators to upgrade and expand existing facilities while also working to attract long term private investment from international shipping lines and terminal operators to develop our port and allow us to compete on the world stage.’

During the past year, PRPA has been in communication with steamship lines, terminal operating companies, and several non-traditional port investors to discuss possible investment in the Port of Philadelphia, especially PRPA’s proposed Southport project, which will significantly expand the Port’s reach south of the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal. In all cases, serious interest was expressed, but contingent on one thing happening: commencement of the Delaware River Channel Deepening Project. Now, with the announcement of not only the start of that project, but a $300 million state bond issue for port improvement, port officials here are extremely optimistic about the Port’s future.

‘This is truly a great day, probably the greatest day we’ve had in the past 10 years,’ said PRPA Chairman Brian Preski, Esq., who participated in Governor Rendell’s news conference at PRPA headquarters. ‘Issues in New Jersey that held up dredging have been resolved, and our own state has stepped up to the plate in a huge way to help us modernize this port.

Between deeper water and significantly improved, expanded facilities, nothing will stop us. We’ll be able to fulfill our mission of job creation, economic development, and logistics efficiency as never before.’

The channel deepening project had been held up for the past several years because the project’s original local sponsor, the bi-state Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) began raising objections about the project’s merits.

More specifically, the New Jersey commissioners of the DRPA, at the behest of a handful of New Jersey politicians, raised those objections. This prompted the Pennsylvania commissioners of DRPA, at the request of Governor Rendell- who is also Chairman of the DRPA- to boycott DRPA board meetings for the past 16 months, stopping virtually all business at the agency.

The dredging issue was resolved when DRPA agreed to relinquish its role as the local sponsor of the project and, just as importantly, to facilitate all legal requirements to make PRPA the local sponsor. Following Governor Rendell’s news conference at DRPA (held an hour before his announcement at PRPA), the Delaware River Port Authority held its first board meeting in more than a year and a half.

In the coming days and weeks, PRPA will release add