Ports & Terminals

Putnam County, Fla., Developing Barge Port With Help From Federal Grant

Officials of Putnam County, Fla., located south of Jacksonville, learned recently that they had received a Port Infrastructure Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for $353,500 to develop a barge port on the St. Johns River. By the grant’s terms, the money must be used by 2026.

Putnam County Administrator Terry Suggs said in a press release, “These monies from the federal government would enable Putnam County to develop and implement a much-needed port development plan that will serve as a roadmap to the establishment of a sustainable county-owned barge port in central Florida.” The port development plan would be part of a long-range effort to develop barge traffic on the St. Johns River.

County officials have been behind plans to revitalize the port since 2021 when the port authority board, composed of all five members of the Board of County Commissioners, voted to fund a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging feasibility assessment.

Interest in the barge port development was sparked in 2018, when Florida Department of Transportation officials announced that funding was approved to replace the Shands Bridge in Clay County, which is too low to permit barge traffic.  The project, projected to cost $595 million, will add 20 feet of air clearance to the bridge and should be completed in 2030.

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“Our intent is for this barge port to serve as a regional hub and have an enormously positive economic impact on a region of the United States that has been historically underemployed and economically depressed,” port manager Sam Sullivan said in a press release. County officials had applied for the PIDP grant in October 2022, Sullivan said in an email to local news sources.