After a two-year, $1.1 million expansion project, Port Manatee’s South Dock Street gate will reopen on Monday.
The port obtained a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant in August 2014 for security improvements to the port, including the South Dock Street gate expansion. The grant provided $825,000 and the port funded the remaining $275,000, according to Port Manatee senior communications manager Virginia Zimmermann.
The main thrust of the project was widening the gate’s lanes for easier movement of oversized cargo, such as the Air Products heat exchangers that were shipped from Port Manatee earlier this year. Though the project wasn’t entirely complete until Nov. 30, Air Products was able to use the South Dock Street gate for the shipments in September and October. The south gate is closer to the Air Products facility located at 2525 Inland Transport St. in Palmetto.
“For our long-term future, it is a benefit,” Air Products spokesman Art George previously told the Herald. “We expect our equipment, which is already large, to become larger than it is today.”
The port had a two-year timeline to finish the project beginning on Sept. 1, 2014. Port Manatee received a three-month extension when the contracted firm for the project, Pepper Contracting Services Inc., encountered unexpected issues.
For example, at the September Manatee County Port Authority meeting, port executive director Carlos Buqueras stated that the existing sewer force main was found to be at a different location than where it was shown to be in the as-built plans, according to meeting minutes. As such, the main needed to be re-routed in addition to having to remove abandoned storm pipes. The change order for a project budget increase of $28,000 and an additional 45 days was unanimously approved by the authority.
In the Manatee County Port Authority June meeting, Buqueras stated that expansions for the North Dock Street gate also were in the works, but that the south gate was the first priority.
“South gate was a priority since Air Products was preparing to roll out their first heat exchanger shipments and the widened lanes were necessary to accommodate the movement of this cargo,” Zimmermann said in an email. “There are plans in place for North gate improvements when the port receives future grant funding.”
Port Manatee staff are testing the South Dock Street gate this week to ensure safe operation for the opening on Monday.