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Port Everglades needs to be overhauled to handle new business, consultants say

Sun-Sentinel - 2/21/2007 12:00:00 AM
by Bill Hirschman

Broward County must overhaul Port Everglades to take advantage of economic opportunities over the next 20 years, consultants told county commissioners at a workshop Tuesday.

The consultants' first draft of a plan for the port envisions expensive renovations, notably building berths large enough to serve new super-size cruise ships and freighters.

DMJM Harris consultants won't study how much the changes would cost until this spring. But Port Director Phillip C. Allen wants to avoid spending taxpayers' money. Instead, developers and companies using the port might join the county in seeking loans.

The plan identifies which projects would increase revenue at the nation's third-busiest cruise port and 14th-busiest cargo container port. It proposes to:

Deepen and widen the harbor.

Add berths and widen and lengthen existing ones.

Build a loading dock and warehouse for freight trains.

Move security barriers to remove the convention center from the restricted area.

Build a road through port property to bypass checkpoints.

It focuses on projects that could begin in the next five years. Federal money for dredging will not be available before 2010.

Commissioner Ken Keechl was concerned some projects might harm the environment. He said plans to deepen the outer channel 5 feet would likely cut into a reef. Consultants noted that less than 1 percent of the reef is living coral.

The commissioners also were briefed on scenarios for persuading a developer to build a 1,000-room, $300 million hotel next to the county's convention center in the next few years.