Federal funding for Savannah Port expansion falls short - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Federal funding for Savannah Port expansion falls short

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Once again, state lawmakers in Georgia are not seeing eye-to-eye with the federal government when it comes to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

President Obama's new budget proposal for 2017 allocates less than half the funding project supporters pushed for. This project is supposed to be finished by 2020. If the money continues to just trickle in, that changes the timeline.

The five-year timeline is assuming the federal government pitches in about $100 million a year for the project. The president's proposal only includes about $43 million. And the project's political boosters say that will cost precious time.

"It increases the cost of the project overall, and secondly it delays the finish of the project, which in turn delays us reaping the economic benefits of the project,” said U.S. Representative Buddy Carter.

Benefits, like increased jobs and commerce for the local economy.

Georgia taxpayers have already invested in the state's full share to the project, about $266 million.

"We've shown our commitment to it, so there's no excuse to the federal government for not showing their commitment to it,” said Rep. Carter.

In a statement Tuesday, Governor Nathan Deal expressed similar frustration, saying, "The federal government gave Georgia its word and must do more to uphold its obligations."

Despite the shortfall, the head of the Georgia Ports Authority is confident this won't affect the timeline of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project - or SHEP - especially after a conversation he had with Brigadier General Turner with the Army Corps of Engineers.

"He has committed to both myself and Governor Deal, as late as yesterday that the Corps is fully committed to getting SHEP done on the current timeline as quickly as they possibly can,” said Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz.

At the Quick Stop 80, they depend on the port just down the street.

"Because of the ports, only we are doing. So business good, the port is the only reason,” said Quick Stop 80 Manager Vikram Shah.

The expansion would mean more business for truck drivers, too. But some worry if the port can handle more volume and traffic efficiently.

"If the infrastructure and the schedule's not programmed out correct, then we're still in the same boat ourselves,” said Mark Stewart, port truck driver.

When asked if the infrastructure and schedule were planned correctly, would that mean more business for the drivers?

Stewart replied, “Yes, sure.”

Rep. Carter told WTOC the project would take an extra five years if federal funding is kept at the same level the president is proposing. But Foltz, and others, are hopeful their congressional delegation will increase that funding.

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