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NEWARK, NJ-The US Army Corps of Engineers has approved the Record of Decision for the massive proposed harbor deepening project that will impact port facilities operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The document is effectively the final action in the Corps’ environmental review process for the project, which will deepen the port’s major channels to 50 feet at a total cost in the vicinity of $1.5 billion.

Simultaneously, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced a multi-agency effort to move the project along. Under McGreevey’s plan, the NJ Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection would work with the Port Authority and the Corps of Engineers to consolidate major portions of the project to save time and money and minimize environmental impact.

“This is a major milestone that demonstrates our commitment to getting these projects on track,” McGreevey said in announcing both the Corps’ approval and his own program. “The port is an economic engine for the region, but we need to speed up the investments that are needed to sustain port growth.”

The next step for the project, on which work is expected to start in about two years, is the design phase. Operational agreements also need to be finalized before work actually starts. The project is designed to make the regional port, the largest on North America’s East Coast, ready for the new generation of deeper draft vessels.

Currently, the New Jersey/New York components of the Port Authority’s facilities generate an estimated $29 billion in economic activity within New Jersey. The port’s operations are estimated to support 101,700 direct jobs, and a total of 227,300 jobs overall. The approval of the port-deepening project is expected to pave the way for the investment of some $4.4 billion in port-related infrastructure over the next five years. Most of that $4.4 billion, which will come from a combination of public and private-sector sources, was already in the works, pending a go-ahead on the port-deepening project.

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