PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The City of Pensacola heard a recent update from the Port of Pensacola on a $147 million Supply Chain Enhancement project.

The port is looking to get a $53,048,217 grant from Triumph Gulf Coast to help fund the project. Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. was created to make awards from available funds to projects or programs that meet priorities for economic recovery, diversification and enhancement of the disproportionately affected counties.

The $53 million of funding will be used to complete the first phase of elements one through three of the Supply Chain Enhancement Project. According to the port’s pre-application to Triumph, the project consists of all aspects of technical assistance, design and construction of the following elements, intended to maximize use of 75 percent of the port while achieving goals set forth by the community-supported vision plan for the remaining 25 percent.

Element 1 is considered Maritime Operations Modernization, which entails berth six repairs, hurricane moorings and terminal improvements, internal heavy load roadway, project cargo working area reinforcement and upland cargo improvements and dredging berths one, two, three, five and six.

“This element will be done to modernize some of the working areas of the port,” said Port of Pensacola director Clark Merritt.

Element 2 is considered Maritime Center of Excellence and Light Manufacturing Complex, which entails redeveloping a multi-tenant boat launch facility for small boat testing and development, boat manufacturing complex, marine industry training and manufacturing complex, U.S. Sailing Center of Excellence A&E and Construction, intermodal cargo transfer warehouse, flexible maker’s space, Maritime Research and Development Center, a venue space and Marsh Dredge Overlook-A&E Site Plan.

“None of this is etched into stone,” said Merritt. “But this is laid out in a logical manner that would help the port and future development of some sort of mixed-use, no residential, but mixed-use retail research and development. We also have some very exciting partners that want to be apart of this.”

Merritt said the Triumph grant allows the port to set some of these things up infrastructure wise so they can accomplish their goals.

Element 3 touches on infrastructure improvements that will support Elements 1 and 2, such as utility resiliency and undergrounding, port traffic improvements that support port vision phase II and on port rail resiliency and efficiency enhancements.

“Existing above-ground utilities running through the Port’s main landside access need to be relocated to promote truck and rail moves in support of GE and other oversized bulk and specialized cargo handling,” The port wrote in their pre-application. “As tenant cargo, particularly GE’s cargo, gets larger and heavier, changes are needed to accommodate efficient truck and rail moves. Burying utilities in support of larger cargo handling and movement, especially for the northern part of the Port via the Heavy Load Roadway Project as well as construction of internal service roads and additional rail infrastructure, including switches, and related rail engineering is needed to modernize port operations. Funding will assist with the port’s railroad modernization initiative since several of the port’s railroad systems are approaching their design life and need to be rebuilt. In addition, Hurricane Sally impacted the port in September 2020, further decreasing the remaining life of structural supporting soils and ballast of railroad track.”

“Port-related traffic from existing customers continues to rise, increasing pressure on connecting roadways. That, combined with the port’s location in an urban environment and pending development/redevelopment of underutilized port property that will be facilitated with the Port Vision Plan Phase II work require that the City employ modern urban core traffic calming and congestion mitigation concepts along Main Street to the west and Bayfront Parkway to the east of the port’s primary entrance at Barracks Street. These improvements, which have completed 100 percent design and are shovel-ready, will minimize potential conflict points across and between various modes of transportation while enhancing movement of cargo flowing through the Port.”  

Merritt said the way they will fund the entire project is from the Triumph grant, along with a private match at $55,555,516, other grants totaling $13,630,026, and their own monies totaling $24,895,918.

“As we all know, this is very fluid,” said Merritt. “It could change, but right now, this is what we would like to march towards, especially as it lines up with our Triumph request.”

He said they are optimistic about the project moving forward.

“This is a great plan we think, and we are ready to execute it,” said Merritt.

Councilwoman Sherri Meyers said she has had conversations about doing some aesthetic work to make the port look less industrial. She also asked if citizens would have access to the northern area of the port after this project.

“This plan is fully aware that we will lose some of our secured perimeter,” said Merritt. “We will just have to adjust that fence line.”  

Merritt said the process now is waiting to hear back from Triumph.

“We have filled out our pre-application, which is four pages, and you are limited in what can go into that,” said Merritt. “It is reviewed by the Triumph staff, then they ask the applicant questions. My understanding is they then make recommendations to the Triumph board to then have us go ahead and submit a full application. That full application is much more extensive. That is when you work with the Triumph staff, where it is basically like negotiating a contract. The overall project is then either approved or denied by the Triumph board by a vote. They are the ones that make the final decision to move forward.”

Other Triumph Grants approved in Escambia County include the City of Pensacola’s Comm. Aircraft Maintenance Campus totaling $66 million, AMIkids Pensacola Workforce Development Program totaling $1.1 million, Pensacola State College’s Infrastructure and Logistics Training Fund totaling $74,000, IHMC Center for Human Healthspan totaling $6 million, Pensacola State College’s Cyber Security and IT Programs Expansion totaling $11,998,919 and Pensacola-Escambia PEDC totaling $2.5 million.

In regard to the port’s revenue this year, total tonnage is up 13 percent from last year and overall port revenues are up three percent according to Merritt. He said vessel and cargo activity is up significantly over the past three years, with 26 vessels in 2020 and 45 vessels in 2022.

Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., is a nonprofit corporation organized to oversee the expenditure of 75 percent of all funds recovered by the Florida attorney general for economic damages to the state that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., is required to administer the distribution of the funds to be used for the recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the eight Northwest Florida counties disproportionately affected by the oil spill. Those counties include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla.

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