Duluth waterfront project expected to boost port's global reach

Ceremonial groundbreaking at the Duluth Port.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (second from left) and other officials take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new $17.7 million intermodal transportation project at the Duluth Port on May 27, 2015.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

A $17.7 million project at the Duluth waterfront will help the Port of Duluth-Superior grab a bigger share of global cargo, according to officials.

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority held a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday for the project, which will allow ships to connect more efficiently to trucks and trains.

The work will restore Docks C and D along the Duluth waterfront — 28 acres jutting out into the harbor that have sat vacant for more than 25 years.

A $10 million federal transportation grant is funding much of the work. The state of Minnesota is contributing $3.7 million and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority is investing $3.9 million in the project.

The funding will be used to replace corroded sheet piling and 1,900 feet of deteriorated wooden dock walls. Crews also will add a new dock that will allow cargo to be rolled on and off. Other work will add rail and road connections.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the investment will help Duluth compete with ports around the country.

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"We're just seeing more and more efficiency in ports, so they can hook right up to trucks, hook right up to trains," Klobuchar said. "That's really what this is about."

Construction crews also will resurface the dock and reinforce it so it can withstand 2,000 square pounds of pressure per square foot, Duluth Seaway Port Authority Executive Director Vanta Coda said.

"It will be one of the stoutest docks in the Great Lakes region," he said.

That will allow the port to handle more heavy-lift cargo, such as components for wind turbines, mining equipment and heavy machinery used in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.

"This really is a key and a springboard for the next 50 years of our development," Coda said.

Port officials expect the first phase of construction to be done by the fall of 2016.