The Port of Seattle

Upcoming projects at America’s ports can be found in every state

May 8, 2024

American ports are extremely large contributors to the nation’s GDP and critical components of the country’s global competitiveness. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress several years ago was designed to support all types of infrastructure upgrades, and ports were a primary focus. Billions were allocated for port upgrades and expansions, which has spurred massive activity at U.S. ports. The efforts now being launched weekly will bring immediate benefit to all Americans and future generations.

Not only are ports critical to America’s global competitiveness, but the same is true for every other country.  With that realization, it is important to note that of the world’s 10 largest and busiest seaports, the top 5 are located in China.  And of the top 10 largest ports, 8 are located in China.  America does not currently have a port on the list.  Because of that, current U.S. port projects need to catch the attention of experienced contractors. 

Upcoming port projects, a treasure trove of opportunities, are detailed here, but there are hundreds more in the planning stages. The immediate needs span a wide spectrum, including engineering, construction, warehouse renovations, leading-edge technology, large equipment, rail work, and other specialized services. There are also needs related to the infrastructure surrounding ports. In fact, it’s estimated that currently 91% of intermodal connector pavement, the pavement connecting ports to other modes of transportation, is in need of repair or upgrades.

The Port of Seattle in Washington has initiated a development project to enhance nearby industrial land.  The project will provide light industrial building space to support manufacturers and suppliers. The first phase, projected to cost approximately $84 million, will deliver 120,000 square feet of light industrial space. It will include project components to increase fishing and maritime activity and create a gateway for industrial businesses. Three buildings in the north will undergo construction for site improvements and stormwater infrastructure rehabilitation. Phase 2 will add 300,000 square feet of light industrial space and address utility improvements. The Port of Seattle plans to present solicitations by the end of 2024 and construction is slated for 2025.

The Raul Hector Castro Land Port of Entry in Douglas, Arizona, will be reconfigured and modernized at an estimated cost of between $165 million and $185 million. The inspection dock only has five bays, causing congestion for inbound and outbound trucks. Pedestrians are currently allowed to cross the path of commercial trucks, which presents a significant safety hazard. Operations will be relocated to optimize commercial activities. Redirecting the commercial traffic will allow for expansion and modernization. Three new vehicle inspection booths and three pedestrian inspection booths will be added to the existing facility to increase inspection capacity and reduce wait times. This project is currently involved in an environmental impact study, but design-build contract awards are planned for 2027.

The functionally obsolete Grand Portage Land Port of Entry in Minnesota is scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a new facility through a project estimated to cost $90 million. The facility serves passengers, commercial vehicles, and pedestrians passing between the United States and Needing, Ontario. The modernization, which will provide better support for national security and international commercial operations, will be delivered through multiple phases to keep the port operational. The plan calls for additional vehicle lanes and a wider commercial truck lane to shorten processing times. Design plans will also call for construction materials that are sustainable, climate resilient, and long-lasting. The facility will meet standards for net-zero carbon and LEED Gold. Energy-saving strategies may include geothermal heating and cooling, energy-efficient automation controls, LED lighting and electric vehicle charging stations. Construction awards will be announced in spring of 2026.

The U.S. General Service Administration will oversee a project at the Fort Fairfield Land Port of Entry. The aging facility no longer meets required standards and cannot accommodate modern border security technology. A projected cost of between $35 and $45 million has been announced. The initiative will be to create and develop a new complex that will provide much-needed new space for operations and address the current outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.  It will also provide renewable energy power and improved water efficiency. Construction is expected to begin in 2026.

With federal funding, a $45 million to $50 million border crossing expansion project in Idaho will be launched soon. The Porthill Land Port of Entry is a limited-service land port that has operated between Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, for over 55 years. The modernization project will enhance operational efficiency and energy operations and provide offices for several federal agencies. The project will also add additional vehicle processing lanes and address water issues. Construction is expected to begin in January 2026 and complete in January 2028.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission has received funding to advance a $25.4 million railroad expansion project at Port Bienville. The facility is a shallow draft barge port, and the industrial park is focused on intermodal cargo transport. Located near the southern coast of Mississippi, several miles from the Gulf of Mexico, the port is equipped with a 100-ton crawler crane that transloads cargo between water, roadways and rail modes of transport. The expansion project will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1 will deliver a classification yard with seven tracks to store 220 additional rail cars. Phase 2 will construct an intermodal facility for cargo transfer from trucks to rail transportation.  The port currently operates 450 railcars but will have capacity for 800 railcars by 2027. Construction is slated for 2026.

Similar types of port projects can be found throughout the U.S.  In fact, it would be difficult to find an American port anywhere that does not have some upcoming project that could lead to a contracting opportunity.

Photo courtesy of the Port of Seattle

Mary Scott Nabers

Mary is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships (P3s). Mary is also co-founder of the Gemini Global Group (G3), a firm that works with national and international clients on business development, P3s, and other types of government objectives.

A recognized expert regarding P3s, Mary is the author of Collaboration Nation – How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government and Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.

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