The Hamilton Port Authority (HPA) was pleased with the recent announcement of federal funding from the National Trade Corridors Fund that will enable it to implement its $35.45-million Westport Modernization Project.
The 284-acre west harbour project includes the demolition of old industrial structures, construction of new rail, road and marine infrastructure and the reconfiguration of unoptimized space that, the HPA believes, could lead to attracting new tenant investments worth $80- or $90 million.
Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau visited the harbour on Nov. 13 to make the announcement.
HPA president and CEO Ian Hamilton welcomed the $17.7-million federal contribution to the project in a statement, saying, “This project is important because the Port of Hamilton is virtually out of room to grow, yet has unmet demand from users who want to invest in trade-oriented business in Ontario. Improvements to the Westport area will optimize the port’s current footprint, create new development parcels and help Canadian companies get their goods to global markets.”
The modernization project is being funded 50:50 by the federal government and the HPA.
The first call for proposals for the 11-year, $2 billion National Trade Corridors Fund went out last July and the HPA immediately set to work preparing an application that would merge a myriad of West Harbour infrastructure needs, said Bill Fitzgerald, vice-president of operations for the HPA.
Construction at Westport piers 10 to 15 could start almost immediately, said Fitzgerald, after details of the contribution agreement with the federal government are finalized. A new dockwall will be constructed at Pier 12 to accommodate seaway draft ships and there will be upgrades to the existing Westport rail network to provide more cargo handling capacity and also new rail service to the potential development parcels. Demolition will be focused at Pier 15, where the former Westinghouse plant will be dismantled. New roadways will complete the package, he said.
The project is expected to wrap up by the end of 2020.
“It is going to transform the area and make it a modern facility with all the right connections for road and rail and the new marine infrastructure that we need at Pier 12,” he said. “Pier 12 has been a real workhorse for us for years and the new infrastructure will set us up for the long term.”
Westport is one of the oldest industrial areas in Hamilton and the HPA has been assembling land piecemeal for decades. The federal agency has a number of existing tenants operating in the area but optimization of vacant spaces, particularly in the northern parts of Pier 15 next to the Randle Reef, was required to maximize the Westport’s potential, said Fitzgerald.
Work on the Pier 12 dockwall is proceeding in three phases with the final two supported by the modernization funding. The firm GHD did the dockwall design. There will be steel sheet piling installed on the face wall, Fitzgerald explained, then a tie-rod system created perpendicular to the wall attached to an anchoring system to hold the top of the wall up. Steel installations and concrete work will be undertaken to form the wall at the water’s edge, and the job will be completed with backfilling, compaction and site surfacing.
“That prepares the site for the heavy loading that terminal operators need for cranes, trucking and cargo operations,” Fitzgerald said.
The tender for phase two of the dockwall has already gone out and the winner will be announced once the contribution agreement is signed.
The National Trade Corridors Fund is intended to be “trade enabling” and that’s exactly how Fitzgerald sees the new infrastructure working.
“In the past, what we have found when we invest in our assets, the companies that lease properties from us build their facilities to do their operations, so it really is a good leverage tool for the local economy to do all that activity,” he said.