Today’s Metro story

6tm3l4xwawclmwnbybwpp4zhoja8o56 It’s a look at Port of Philadelphia expansion. Check the link. Here’s an expanded version since space is limitless online, but not in print …

Yesteryear, Bill Keller was a longshoreman. Today, he’s a state representative. Drawing on both experiences, he claimed Wednesday’s state House vote in favor of creating the Southport Marine Terminal represents “the largest economic development project in generations.”

Now awaiting the governor’s signature, House Bill 666 would transfer 180 acres from the state to the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. That would enable Port of Philadelphia expansion, which shipping companies consider a prerequisite for increased use. The transfer is for $1, but Keller said the potential benefit is the creation of 25,000 jobs.

Port expansion, coupled with Panama Canal and Delaware River dredging, means larger ships carrying imports from China and India could come to Philadelphia. Currently, they land on the West Coast with cargo railroaded cross-country.

The local port handles 500,000 containers annually, and has 9,500 jobs. When the Panama Canal deepening finishes in 2014, Keller said, there could be an additional 100 million containers for East Coast ports. Philadelphia’s current 5-percent market share would raise the container volume to 5 million, on par with what the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey currently handles with 265,000 workers.

“This was a very important step to getting out of the recession by putting people back to work,” Keller said, listing everything from more longshoremen and truckers to rail-workers and bankers as potential job growth. “It will allow the Port of Philadelphia to become a major leading port in the United States.”

Gov. Ed Rendell has already pledged up to $25 million for site and infrastructure upgrades.

(Photo by Rikard Larma)

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