White House announces expedited East Coast port expansions

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The White House said Thursday that it was expediting the expansion of five ports along the East Coast as a part of President Obama's “We Can’t Wait” campaign against Congress.

The projects, in Jacksonville and Miami, Fla.; Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; New York and New Jersey, have long been sought by transportation officials in those states.

Obama said Thursday that building them quickly would boost the national economy.  

“One way to help American businesses grow and hire is to modernize our infrastructure,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “That’s why in March I asked my administration to identify important projects across the country where Federal review could be expedited. Today’s commitment to move these port projects forward faster will help drive job growth and strengthen the economy.”

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The White House said the ports — along with building an intermodal container facility for cargo shipping in Jacksonville and increasing the height of a bridge between New York and New Jersey - would be the first of 43 projects that will ultimately be expedited by Obama.

The timing of the announcement coincides with a campaign trip to Florida for Obama. The president is scheduled to give speeches on Thursday in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach. It also coincides with a closely watched transportation funding campaign in Georgia, where both Republicans and Democrats have long pushed to deepen the Port of Savannah.

Voters in Georgia will vote July 31 on a proposed one-cent sales tax increase supporters say would raise $18 billion for transportation projects in the state.

The White House said that the expedited projects announced Thursday would be completed between 2012 and 2015.

The Alexandria, Va.-based American Association of Port Authorities hailed the decision to expedite the port expansions

“The American Association of Port Authorities has long stressed the importance of expediting permitting and project delivery processes for water-and land-side access infrastructure projects at America’s seaports,” AAPA President Kurt Nagle said in a statement.

"These types of projects not only aid in the efficient movement of freight, they pay long-term dividends by supporting job creation and economic growth, and help to ensure America’s international competitiveness overseas," Nagle continued. "We hope that additional water and land-side access projects at seaports will be added to the list.”

This story was updated with new information at 4:02 p.m.