Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Post-Panamax Upgrades Require Baltimore-Area Bridge Closures Today

Drivers in the Baltimore area will face traffic jams due to several temporary bridge closures this afternoon that come just as the region faces the first heat wave of the season.

The bridges, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Key Bridge, and are being temporarily closed because the Port of Baltimore is set to receive a ship carrying four cranes necessary to upgrade port facilities to handle the next generation of super Panamax ships. The closures are meant to prevent accidents due to rubber necking and gawking at the sight of these massive cranes passing within feet of the bridge deck.

The Port of Baltimore crane upgrade is a scene being repeated at ports around the nation. In order to handle the expected opening of the expanded Panama Canal, ports are rushing to upgrade their facilities.

For the New York City metro area, that means expediting the raising of the Bayonne Bridge. Ports that don't carry out necessary upgrades will likely lose business to those ports that are ready to receive the larger ships.

It's a business decision, but it has tremendous economic impacts on regions.

For instance, if the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey can't get the Bayonne Bridge raised in time, shipping companies may look to Baltimore or Norfolk, Virginia as alternatives, meaning lost jobs and economic opportunities in the New York City metropolitan region. That's why the bridge raising project is so vital as well as a host of less visible projects, including ongoing dredging of New York harbor and the recently completely dredging of the Kill Van Kull to allow deeper draft shipping.

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