Craney Island and Panama Canal Growth

Craney Island is a manmade island located near the entrance to the navigational channel of the Elizabeth River and could be an integral component in the growth of Hampton Roads port when the Panama Canal expansion is completed.

Everyone’s eyes are trained on the disagreement between the Canal authority and the contractors who secured an extension of the cooling off period over unpaid work and work slowdowns until February 1st.  Whether Hampton Roads or any other ports throughout the Mid-Atlantic and southeast, the new locks which allow post-Panamax vessels are expected to bring an increased amount of traffic to these ports who are developing their highway and rail infrastructures to feed not only their own commerce but to be a gateway to interior ports for imported and exported goods.  

The island traces its history back to seventeen centuries settlers who mistook blue herons for cranes.  The name “Craney” has seen several evolutions in spelling over the years, but the tenor remains the same.

Currently under the administration of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Craney Island is growing in size as dredged material from the Port of Norfolk is deposited on it.  An ambitious project has plans to construct a marine terminal on its east side.  Material for the island’s expansion is not in short supply.

Quoting from the Craney Island Eastward Expansion (CIEE) project’s website:

Hampton Roads’ military, shipping and ship building industries rely on Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA) to dispose of material from Norfolk Harbor. The CIEE will allow CIDMMA to accept dredged material well beyond its original capacity, ensuring that the channels in Hampton Roads remain passable and offer an economically efficient, reliable, and safe navigation system for maritime vessels.

The potential for this expansion also holds hope for a third crossing in the region.  Last June, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) board agreed to a $5.4 billion project that would, in phases, include widening the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel and Interstate 664 and adding Patriots Crossing, a four-lane bridge-and-tunnel system from Interstate 564 in Norfolk across the Elizabeth River to the ­Monitor-Merrimac.

It also would include a connection to Craney Island and Va. 164 in Portsmouth.  Also included as a result of this study was the widening of I-64 on the peninsula in phases and evaluating part-time congestion tolling.

Infrastructure, while billed by some as “pork”, is the lifeline through which commerce has the opportunity to grow and manufacturers and buyers of goods can get their products to and from the ports.  It also plays a key role in attracting a talented workforce to the region who are able to enjoy mobility free of heavy congestion or limited transit opportunities.