Is Houston ready for canal expansion?

May 24, 2012 3:53:45 PM PDT
The countdown is on in a major expansion of the Panama Canal. It's a project that could have major economic implications around the world and especially right here in Texas; that is, if we're ready.

The Panama Canal is being widened to accommodate much bigger vessels, which means much more cargo will be coming our way at the Port of Houston.

The canal is just two years away from the enormous expansion, a $5 billion construction project sure to have a huge financial impact on the southeast Texas coast.

Panama is adding a third set of wider, deeper, and longer locks which allow much larger ships, called post-Panamax, to slip through the canal and speed the shipment of goods.

"The expansion allows us to keep supplying and feeding global markets," said Capt. Bill Diehl with the Greater Houston Port Bureau.

Captain Diehl used to live in Panama, among its three million people working at the canal. On Thursday, he was in downtown Houston at a State House Transportation Committee meeting at which the canal expansion and whether or not we're ready for it when it opens in 2014 was the main topic of discussion.

"We're not gonna open the door and it's gonna be a flood of people into the concert. We're going to continue to grow in our capacity. And that's what the canal is about really," Capt. Diehl said.

But there will be steady growth and it will be obvious.

"It's gonna have some impact, especially on roadways and railways," said Port of Houston Chairman Jim Edmonds. "How ready is Houston? How ready is Texas? We've been working on this for quite a few years. Our plans are already in place. We continue to build more docks."

There is $120 million dollars worth of dredging that needs to happen and a lot of infrastructure work. The bottom line today being that Houston is not ready yet, but it's getting there.

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