Port Tampa Bay debuts major project

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The future is now at Port Tampa Bay, where a major project that was decades in the making is nearing completion, port leaders said Tuesday.

Crews have been dredging Big Bend Channel since October, deepening the channel to 43 feet, from 34 feet, and widening it to 250 feet, from 200 feet.

Port Tampa Bay President and CEO Paul Anderson led a celebration of the project Tuesday afternoon.

"This is a generational project that will reap benefits for decades to come," Anderson said. "We have projects down here with global companies that we know will create hundreds and hundreds of jobs over time. It's an economic generator. It brings different types of cargos, allows them to get greater economies of scale such as road building materials, cement, steel is going to be manufactured down here."

Planning for the project began nearly three decades ago.

Anderson said this will impact people's everyday lives, even if they don't realize it.

"Everybody sees road construction going on. A lot of that material, if not most of it, will come in the port down here," he said. "It makes it less expensive. Overall, that affects taxpayers. It makes it easier for us, creates jobs. If you're in real estate, you're going to be selling homes to the new people that come."

Some of the biggest winners will be major companies that transport goods into and out of the port, like Mosaic and Tampa Electric.

"It takes a lot of alignment to get that many partners to agree about the priority and the returns, but it's finally time for the project," said Corrine Ricard, with Mosaic.

Anderson said the project is ahead of schedule and should be finished in April.