Craney Island expansion still faces funding challenge

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by Heather B. Hayes

The Virginia Port Authority’s (VPA) Craney Island expansion project has cleared a big hurdle in Congress, but it is still faces a challenge on Capitol Hill in obtaining funding.

Congress authorized $356.1 million for the project when it overrode President Bush’s veto of the Water Resources Development Act. That bill included more than $23 billion worth of projects that address, among other things, flooding, wetlands restoration and hurricane damage.

VPA requested federal money to pay for the eastward expansion of Craney Island in Portsmouth. The expansion will provide enough land to accommodate the construction of the VPA’s fourth cargo terminal, the first phase of which is expected to be completed in 2017. If the project is built to full capacity (an effort that would take until 2032) the project will cost more than $2 billion.

VPA spokesman Joe Harris warned that while Congress has authorized the project, it has not yet appropriated the money. The port authority still must make its case to lawmakers on why it needs the funds.

The VPA plans to move forward with the project as quickly as possible in 2008, Harris says. “Right now, we’re in the preliminary engineering phase, so we’ve got people out there designing the project and figuring out next steps, so we don’t have years and years to wait and hope that this money comes through.”

If VPA does not ultimately receive the funding, VPA has a backup funding plan that includes a number of financing options, including bond sales and private/public partnerships.

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