JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Work is underway on engineering and design plans to deepen the St. Johns River so it can accommodate the biggest cargo ships in the world.
On the Northbank, JAXPORT hosted congressional leaders along with state and local officials for a ceremonial signing launching the next phase of the Jacksonville Harbor Deepening Project.
Last week President Obama signed legislation authorizing the project. Congress has yet to address funding the project that would deepen the channel from 40 to 47 feet at a cost pushing $700 million. The federal share of the project is $312 million with the state and Jacksonville responsible for the balance of the cost.
"It is the design of the entire 13 mile stretch and so be able to go right from that project into awarding of a contract," said Col. Alan Dodd with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The design phase will take 18 months at a cost of $7 million to complete. Work on the channel could begin in early 2016 providing Congress appropriates the funds.
JAXPORT is optimistic and believes having a blueprint in hand gives the city a leg up.
"When you have a project authorized by Congress and signed by the President there is money allocated to fund this project, but what we then have to do is get Congress to authorize and appropriate the funds, " said Brian Taylor, JAXPORT CEO.
Typically in projects of this size the state helps pay half with the city coming up with the rest of the money.
Mayor Alvin Brown says the city will get it done.
"We are going to make sure we invest like we always have," said Brown.