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Houston Ship Channel Launches $1B Expansion Amid Record-Shattering Demand

Houston Ship Channel

The Houston Ship Channel is moving forward on a $1B expansion project that is expected to ease pressure amid the area's unprecedented activity.

The so-called Project 11, which has been planned since 2010, will see Port Houston and the Army Corps of Engineers widen the channel from 530 feet to 700 feet, and deepen other segments to 46.5 feet, according to the Port. The project is funded in part by last year's federal infrastructure spending bill, the Houston Chronicle reported. Project 11 is expected to be completed in 2025.

The expansion is intended to ease increased activity at the Houston Ship Channel, which is seeing repeat record-breaking months as supply chain issues drive traffic to the port. The channel recently saw its busiest April on record, with a 21% increase in container volume from 2021.

"As a marine terminal operator, our team is responding to the surge with an accelerated infrastructure development program on all fronts," Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther said in a release. "We’re expanding the Houston Ship Channel to handle bigger ships, we’re constructing wharves, adding container yard space, installing new equipment and training our future workforce. It’s busy at Port Houston, as our team members continue to focus on safety, customer service and moving cargo efficiently.”

The Port stated it expects to see strong container activity throughout the year, and it is adding other changes like increased gate hours to meet demand.

The project was expected to break ground last year, but was delayed due to possible environmental impacts from construction to port-area neighborhoods like Galena Park, Pasadena and Channelview, the Houston Chronicle reported. Though the Port Houston Authority has stated it will use clean dredging equipment for its contribution to the expansion, Stephanie Thomas of nonprofit organization Public Citizen told the Houston Chronicle that the Army Corps of Engineers has not followed suit.

The Port estimates the project will sustain 3 million jobs, bring in $802B in economic value and $38B in tax revenue.

“As the #1 Port in the nation, the Port of Houston plays an invaluable role in spurring economic growth and making the City of Houston, Harris County, and the United States top contenders in the global market," U.S. Rep. Al Green said in a separate press release. "It allows international goods to flow in and out of our country, generates millions of job opportunities, and brings in billions of dollars in tax revenue annually."