WILMINGTON -- The port of Wilmington has supplied jobs and money locally and statewide for decades. Now it's trying to keep up with the pressure of rapid growth. By 2020 we will see big things from the North Carolina State Ports Authority. The port of Wilmington is already preparing for growth with an expansion project. The port of Wilmington's cranes are some of the most visible examples of how the port is growing. The container yard is expected to double by the year 2020, which CEO Tom Eagar says is a necessity. "We are at capacity today. If you walk through these warehouses, they're full. You take a look at the yard, it's just about full," Eagar said. The local port relies heavily on local roadways, which is a big area of concern. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said, "We have increased our commerce, we have increased our business, we have increased our truck traffic, and yet at the same time we haven't increased our roads or improved upon our road conditions." Eagar said, "The infrastructure development is really a critical component of our plans, and that is the completion of the I-140 beltway, the Cape Fear skyway bridge, the upgrade of Highway 74 to interstate quality." For the port of Wilmington, 2020 means increased volume. About 350,000 trucks move through the port's gates each year. By 2020 that number is expected to double to 700,000. The port's economic impact may be the most crucial impact of all; increased business on our waterways will continue to bring in local income as well as state tax revenue. There are limitations to how port business can increase. Eagar said, "You start thinking about having to deepen the existing Cape Fear navigation channel to what the new standard is evolving at 50 to 52 feet depth, you can't do it." Though there are restrictions to expanding the waterway, Eagar says the land north and south of the port's gates will be further developed. Projections show the port of Wilmington will continue to serve as much of an economic impact as ever before. "We'll always have a port in the city of Wilmington, it's where it began and they will never allow that port to close down, I believe that," Eagar said. By 2020 port expansion projects are expected to have been completed for a while. But as you heard, the port of Wilmington can only handle so much growth -- so another big project is in the works... We'll tell you all about it on Monday.
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