Port news brings opportunity, challenges

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, September 22, 2016

The announcement that the Port of Virginia has signed a new long-term lease for the Virginia International Gateway and will be doubling the facility’s carrying capacity is big news for the region.

The port is one of the most important resources Virginia has to support its commerce and job market. Many years of hard work by generations of leaders have sustained the transformation of the natural deep-water harbor that John Smith saw when he sailed from England into a high-tech port capable of importing and exporting goods to or from anywhere in the world.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe was at the Portsmouth facility Wednesday to announce that the Port of Virginia has signed a new lease that expires on Dec. 31, 2065. This lease will support full careers for people who aren’t even born yet.

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The new lease allows Virginia International Gateway to begin work on a $320-million expansion, which will include a longer berth, an expanded rail operation, an expanded container yard and four new ship-to-shore cranes.

McAuliffe said the port recently completed its second consecutive fiscal year of profitability after years of operating in the red. The port’s financial sustainability seems to be improving and will also provide opportunity in the years ahead.

But with opportunities come challenges. Truck traffic, rail traffic and warehouse development, and the problems they cause, are already very real challenges for the Hampton Roads region, especially Suffolk. The city has struggled to keep up with the amount of truck traffic headed to warehouses on Holland Road, Pruden Boulevard and beyond. Suffolk residents and visitors wait on trains that criss-cross the city on a daily basis, carrying containers from the port even farther west.

Aid from the state is needed to help mitigate the negative effects of port expansion on the city of Suffolk. We urge state legislators to hear the voices of local officials and respond appropriately.