Scott, DOT unveil $24M for Port Canaveral upgrades


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Port Canaveral will get a facelift earlier than expected following an announcement Thursday that the state will advance $24.4 million to help expand the port to accommodate newer, larger ships.

Gov. Rick Scott and port officials unveiled the project which will expand the port by increasing the turnaround capacity needed for larger cruise ships and cargo vessels. To speed up construction, the state will advance the money and seek reimbursement from the federal government.

The investment enables Port Canaveral to jump-start the $52 million project from its previous 2017 start date.

While Scott has frequently talked about the need for private sector jobs – saying on several occasions that he isn't interested in government creating jobs – in this case, he said it's important because of a huge expected private sector ripple effect.

"Florida will step up to help create construction jobs in the near future and lasting permanent jobs, rather than take a chance on getting the federal government's help," Scott said in a statement.

A study completed for the Florida Ports Council estimates that the return on investment in port related projects is about seven-to one, with jobs created during construction but also retained after the work is complete

By advancing the funds on its own, the state will reduce the cost of the project by about $12 million by eliminating some requirements that were attached to the federal money, port officials say.

The governor has made port expansion an economic development priority during his year and a half in office. In March 2011, Scott awarded $77 million to deepen the Port of Miami, allowing it to accept bigger ships slated to begin using a wider Panama Canal in 2014. In July 2011, state transportation officials broke ground on a $42.5 million overpass at Port Everglades near Fort Lauderdale.

Other projects include $22.5 million earmarked in February to expand and modernize the petroleum terminal complex at the Port of Tampa.

Florida Ports Council president Doug Wheeler said Thursday's announcement underscored the Scott's repeated support of building port infrastructure at Florida's 15 deep water ports..

"We look forward to continuing our work with Governor Scott and the Florida Department of Transportation in identifying future strategic port investments," Wheeler said.