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JERSEY CITY-The Port Authority of NY/NJ has cut a deal to buy back the long-term leasehold of the Northeast Auto-Marine Terminal, involving 119 acres occupied by that facility. The operator is a private company dba Northeast Auto-Marine Terminal, and the deal is valued at $60 million.

What the PA has in mind for the site, surrounding on three sides by water, is to demolish the existing import auto processing center and turn the acreage into a container shipping terminal. PA and state officials say it is part of an effort to prepare the port for the coming expansion of the Panama Canal and an expected influx of new shipping traffic. Combined with ongoing dredging and channel widening, as well as a new rail system, it’s also part of the authority’s 10-year, $2-billion capital improvement plan.

“Even during times of economic uncertainty, the port has been a lifeline for this region,” says Gov. Jon Corzine, in a statement. “For that reason, we must protect this critical asset and move forward with a clear vision for the future.”

Susan Bass Levin, the PA’s first deputy executive director, terms the deal, “a coup for port expansion. Right now, there isn’t any land left. The question was, how do we use the space we have in the best way possible?”

State and PA officials haven’t released details of exactly what will rise on the site once the existing Northeast Auto-Marine Terminal is demolished, or how much the construction phase will cost. As far as the timing, “it will be completed as soon as humanly possible,” Bass Levin says. The PA is “currently in negotiations” to sign up a company to build and operate the new facility, she says.

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