The Port of Albany will be able to handle more ships at once, as well as ships with heavier cargoes, using a new and expanded $12 million wharf that was unveiled Thursday.
The expanded and modernized wharf will be a major boost for the port and for the Capital Region economy, making it easier to ship and receive goods by water, officials said.
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, who serves on the Capital Region Economic Development Council, said transportation infrastructure like the deep-water port will play an important role in the regional development plan, which is due to be completed in November.
The new wharf on the Hudson River was built over the last two years with state funds and federal stimulus money, replacing a timber pile wharf that was constructed in 1927, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor.
The new pier is concrete and steel, cantilevered out over the water so ships can pull up next to it. The pier has the ability to support weights of 1,200 pounds per square foot — twice the weight the old wharf could support. A new railroad track has been extended down the pier, allowing cargoes to be directly loaded or unloaded by crane between rail car and ship.
The improvements are also doubling the number of ships that can be docked at the same time from two to four.
The first phase of work, extending the pier about 500 feet along the waterfront, was mostly completed last year at a cost of $7.6 million, with $6.5 million coming from the Rebuild NY Bond Act. The 310-foot extension completed last month cost another $4.3 million, paid for from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 federal stimulus bill.
The port already has a major economic role in the region. The port and its tenants account for $428.5 million in annual economic activity, according to a 2008 study by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission. The study found 1,382 jobs were associated with the port or tenants.
The port in South Albany handled 451,000 tons of cargo last year, up 75 percent from the year before.
About 35 longshoremen work on an average day, and Longshoreman’s Union local President Jim Keleher said more could be put to work if business picks up.
The Albany Port District Commission began to plan the upgrades in 2002 as part of a larger plan to relieve congestion in the ports of New York and New Jersey.
The commission controls about 202 acres in Albany and 34 acres on the Rensselaer side of the river, where the docking berths remain wooden piers. Hendrick said the commission is looking for grant money to rebuild and modernize the Rensselaer pier.
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