PORT CANAVERAL, Fla.– Port Canaveral CEO John E. Walsh is proposing sharing under-utilized NASA and Air Force land in a partnership that would reduce operating costs to the federal government and allow for Port expansion and rail connectivity.
Walsh made the proposal in official testimony during a Congressional House Transportation Subcommittee field hearing this week at Kennedy Space Center.
“This rail and land discussed today can allow the Canaveral Port Authority to do our part and put 10,000 to 15,000 people to work,” Walsh said. “If we can send rovers to Mars, surely we can connect 10 miles of railroad in a technology that has been done since the 1800s. I believe we can redefine our future now. We need a strong infrastructure system to link ourselves to the new world economy.”
In 2012, Port staff began discussing rail connection to Port Canaveral with Kennedy Space Center planners. Direct rail is a critical component for a dynamic and vibrant cargo business at Port Canaveral. Canaveral has invested $70 million in two deep water berths with ship-to-shore Post-Panamax cranes arriving this March. An additional $50 million in capital spending is under way for terminal backup areas with $150 million more to be spent to fully develop cargo capacity, the port said.
The Port Authority is pursuing release by NASA on a 100-acre overlap of the NASA boundary in the lower Banana River to see if the south boundary of NASA safety zone north of Port submerged land can be moved north in order to allow for future expansion. In addition, the Port Authority has asked to lease land adjacent to the middle basin from the Air Force to further invest in cargo berths. Both proposals are under review. Port staff is hopeful each effort can be expedited as NASA and Air Force approvals will determine timing on thousands of jobs.
The U.S. House Transportation subcommittee members urged NASA and Air Force officials to continue serious discussions and consideration of the Port’s proposals and applauded the Port’s focus on job creation and economic diversity.
“We appreciate efforts and help from NASA and the 45th Space Wing so far,” Walsh added. “Our hope is to do right of way and operating agreements with NASA and Kennedy Space Center concurrently with the EIS process. It is imperative to get Brevard County every job we can as fast as we can and thousands of jobs can be created as soon as we can connect to Florida East Coast. Together and with NASA’s help, we can create these jobs faster.”